Font style is one of the only resume choices that affect every word of your document. Yet many people don’t give it much thought. When polishing up your resume, you may decide to just use the default style on your word processor or resume template.
As a result, your resume’s font style may differ sharply from your personal style and deportment. That difference isn’t a problem when submitting your resume, but it can become a problem when you walk in the door for an interview. Hiring managers like to see continuity between how you come off on paper and in person. When the two impressions don’t match up, a hiring manager may wonder which is the “true” you and whether you’ll be the right fit for their company.
So don’t take your resume format choices lightly, especially your choice of font. But this decision doesn’t have to be at all complicated or time-consuming. The best way to choose your font is with a quick gut decision, based on whichever style you like most. When you make your font choice instinctively, you’re most likely to find one that reflects your personality and the positive impression you’ll make in a job interview.
Choosing the Right Font for You
Below, you’ll see the same sentence in twelve different resume font styles. Before you read the rest of this article, quickly look over each style and choose the one you find most visually pleasing. Write down its number on a post-it or the notes app on your phone. Then give the twelve sentences another look and write down one or two more numbers for other styles that jump out at you. When you scroll down, you can then find the number for your corresponding font choices, and tips and considerations for making them work on your resume.
A note on serifs
As you read the descriptions of your chosen styles below, you’ll see each font is referred to as either “serif” or “sans serif.” A serif font has little decorative “tails” on its letters, while a sans serif font does not. These “tails” are commonly thought to make a serif font more aesthetically pleasing and readable than a sans serif font. But that’s not always the case, especially when scanning text quickly on a computer screen. For instance, you’ll probably find a long block of online text easier to read in Calibri (sans serif) than in Book Antiqua (serif). The serif/sans serif distinction is a helpful way to understand fonts in general but shouldn’t weigh heavily on your choice of which font works best for your resume.
Twelve Great Fonts for Your Resume
1. Arial Narrow
Arial Narrow is a tidy sans serif font that, true to its name, packs an impressive amount of text into a small amount of page space. That attribute makes Arial Narrow an excellent option for executives or other job seekers with extensive career information struggling to keep their resumes to just a few pages. If you use this font for your resume’s main text, consider using Arial Black for your subject headings or job titles – the two fonts complement each other perfectly.
2. Book Antiqua
Book Antiqua is the most elegant serif font on this list, but it’s also the most ornate. As such, it can look a little “heavy” as the font for a longer resume with extensive bullet points and job descriptions. You can alleviate this problem by increasing your document’s line spacing a little, or by opting for a “lighter” sans serif font (like Corbel or Tahoma) as your subject headers. Stylistically, Book Antiqua can be a great fit for job seekers in academia or high-level HR.
3. Bookman Old Style
This font’s name may suggest you’ll come off as bookish and old. But actually, Bookman Old Style is one of the fresher and more modern-looking serif fonts. (For instance, it makes a far “lighter” impression than Book Antiqua) Note that Bookman Old Style runs larger than other fonts, so if you choose it for your resume, you may want to reduce your text size by a point or two.
Calibri is Microsoft Word’s default font style and deserves to be. This simple, polished little font beats out virtually all the others for clarity and readability and so ranks #1 on many resume style lists you’ll find. Regardless of your profession or career level, Calibri can make a great font choice for your resume.
Think of Cambria as the serif version of Calibri. It’s slightly more formal and stylized but also one of the most useful and versatile resume fonts out there—an excellent font choice for most any job seeker.
Despite its somewhat antiquated look, Century is a popular, conservative serif font that conveys professionalism and reliability. It can serve your resume well if you’ve worked in a more traditional industry, like banking or book publishing. Also, Century looks great in small caps, making it a good option for your section headings and other prominent resume text.
Corbel gives Calibri a run for its money as the best all-around sans serif font. It’s slightly less formal but otherwise about equally clear and polished. One quirk to keep in mind: Corbel gives different vertical positioning to individual numbers. (Try typing 1234567890 in it, and you’ll see.) Some people like how that displays their phone number, but others find it distracting. Depending on your specific digits, it can make your phone number look like it’s playing hopscotch. A quick fix: Use Calibri as your contact header font instead.
8. Franklin Gothic Book
Franklin Gothic Book is probably the most formal-looking sans serif font on this list, but it’s well-suited for job seekers in many fields. If you use it as your resume’s main font, consider using Franklin Gothic Medium for your name and subject headings.
Garamond is often promoted as a viable alternative to the overused Times New Roman. It’s a smooth, professional-looking serif font. But like Century, Garamond can come off a bit old-fashioned. Also, note this style makes small/italic text hard to read, so if you use Garamond, avoid italics where possible and don’t make your resume’s body text smaller than 11.
A clear and friendly-looking sans serif font, Tahoma could almost be related to the often-mocked Comic Sans. But don’t let that scare you off this popular, perfectly professional text style. Tahoma is a go-to for many job seekers in tech, but it’s versatile enough to work in many other fields.
11. Times New Roman
Resume experts generally advise against Times New Roman, saying it’s overused and won’t help you stand out from other applicants. But here’s the thing: They’ve been saying that for at least 15 years, and job seekers have listened. Nowadays, far fewer resumes appear in Times New Roman, so use it with confidence if you prefer it to the other fonts. Judged strictly by its merits, Times New Roman has a graceful, even appearance that’s well-suited to resume design.
Among top-rated resume fonts, Verdana is arguably the least elegant. Yet it makes up for that with a bold, no-nonsense look ideal for many corporate job searches. Like Bookman Old Style, Verdana’s letters run larger, so if you use it, plan on reducing your text size by a point or two.