It might not seem like a big deal, but did you know something as simple as the font you pick for your resume can have a huge impact on your chances of scoring your dream job? Learn how to pick the best font for resume content, what font size your resume should be, how good typography can get you past applicant tracking system (ATS) robots, and what you can do to make your resume stand out to recruiters.
How Does a Font Get You a Job?
Your end goal needs to be making sure your resume catches the attention of a real person. The first step of getting your resume in front of a hiring manager is getting it past the ATS robots. These systems might not recognize uncommon fonts, which could make it difficult for them to parse the text for the keywords it’s looking for. Some top ATS convert your resume into a standard format for a recruiter to read.
If you have the wrong font, the ATS may convert your resume incorrectly, showing important information as tofu, the term for those blank boxes that replace letters, numbers, and other characters when the font doesn’t render.
Studies show us that some recruiters only spend six seconds deciding if a resume is worth pursuing, so tofu or a hard-to-read font can easily result in your resume being rejected without any consideration of your skills or experience.
It helps to understand some basics of typography before picking a font and formatting your resume.
What we generally call a font is actually a typeface. A typeface refers to a family of fonts. A font is the size and weight of a typeface. That means that Times New Roman is a typeface and 12-point Times New Roman in bold is a font. The distinction doesn’t matter much in the digital age, but it’s helpful to know that you have choices within a typeface. For instance, Roboto, a typeface that Google developed for mobile use, comes in thin, light, normal, medium, bold, and black varieties.
You’ve probably seen sans serif and serif in reference to typefaces or fonts. A serif refers to the small lines or flourishes on the ends of some letters, while sans serif means the font doesn’t have those lines.
There are other typeface styles beyond serif and sans serif, such as script, which refers to cursive or handwriting-like styles, or slab serif, which involves serifs that are particularly thick and embellished. These and other styles aren’t appropriate for resumes, as they’re often difficult to read at a glance and don’t play well with ATS.
The Best Resume Fonts
There’s a psychology to fonts that allows you to control some of the perceptions a reader might have of you based on your resume. While we recommend specific typefaces below, you’re generally safe sticking to fonts that are ubiquitous, available on most word processing programs (not just Microsoft Word), and easy to read.
Should I Use a Serif Font for My Resume?
If you’re applying for highly compliant, regulated, or formal fields, serif is the way to go. Serif fonts are perceived as reliable and traditional. They lend an air of authority. Use this to your advantage if you’re working in finance, law, or science or if you’re applying to companies with a long history and formal structure.
Best Serif Fonts for Resumes:
- Times New Roman (although some believe it is outdated)
Should I Use a Sans Serif Font for My Resume?
If you’re working in innovative and newer fields, sans serif is a good fit for your resume. Sans serif fonts are perceived as modern and clean. They imply innovation and simplicity. Sans serif fonts work well for applications to young companies on the cutting edge looking to be disruptive and in creative or emotional fields such as marketing or writing.
Best Sans Serif Fonts for Resumes:
Resume Font Size
Another useful piece of resume formatting to consider is the size of the typeface you choose. The body of your resume, including headers, should generally be 10 to 12 points, no matter what typeface you’re using. Your name at the top of the resume can be a bit larger — 16 or 18 points depending on how much space you have to play with.
It’s a standard rule of thumb in resume creation to make sure your resume is only one page – you can bring a more in-depth resume to your interview and use LinkedIn to provide more detail. That one page is essential to get a recruiter’s attention. A lot of jobseekers try to squeeze in more information by using a small resume font size. Another common mistake is to use font size for emphasis instead of bolding or italicizing.
The best trick for a great resume seems easy but is actually really hard to execute: keep it simple. You don’t want to leave out any of your experience, qualifications, or skills, but something has to go. This is why most recruiting and hiring professionals recommend tailoring your resume to the job you’re applying for. Hiring managers, ATS robots, and recruiters are all looking for resumes that fit the role they’re trying to fill, not every job you’ve ever worked. Figure out the best ways to optimize and focus your resume with Jobscan:
Once you’ve got your resume curated for the specific role you’re applying for, it’ll be much easier to fit your text in at the optimal resume font size.
How To Emphasize Info on Your Resume
Don’t overuse emphasis on your resume. It’s fine to bold a section header such as Summary or Education and also italicize past roles you’ve held, but if you overuse emphasis, it starts to lose meaning. If everything is emphasized, then nothing is emphasized.
Stick to bold and italics for emphasis on your resume. Other methods might not scan or convert well through an ATS or make your resume look busy and crowded, decreasing the chances a recruiter or hiring manager will want to read it. Also avoid underlining, since in the digital era underlines are usually associated with web links. On top of this, some typefaces don’t play well with underlines, meaning lowercase letters like g, j, or q might not scan or convert correctly within an ATS.
Other Resume Font and Formatting Dos and Don’ts
Don’t use more than two fonts on your resume
Be sparing with the use of a secondary font. A good use of two fonts would be a serif typeface (e.g., Garamond) for your name, then a sans serif (e.g., Helvetica) typeface for the body of the resume. Using more than two fonts starts to make your resume look aimless, or even worse, like a ransom note!
Don’t try to use line spacing adjustments to get more space
This will also make your resume look crowded and be difficult to read by ATS robots and recruiters. You can play with margins, but be careful not to overcrowd the page.
Don’t bother with color for a digital resume
It just isn’t worth the effort. Certain colors or shades sometimes appear as invisible to an ATS and others can be challenging for hiring managers or recruiters to read. Save graphics, colors, and headshots for your CV or in-depth resume that you take with you to an interview.
Do get fresh eyes to look over your resume
A good time for this is after you’ve redone your typeface, font, and formatting. A friend or family member looking over your resume can give you feedback about its readability and appearance. They can also help point out any typos or problems you might have missed – it’s easy to overlook errors when you’ve been looking at the same document for ages!
Beat the ATS Robots, Reach the Humans
Simple details like typeface, font size, and where to bold your resume might initially seem like they aren’t worth focusing on. But today ATS robots scan through hundreds of resumes, recruiters only spend seconds on a flood of applications, and hiring managers need to choose between highly competitive candidates. Correct typography and formatting put you a step above other candidates and give you a much better chance to get your resume past an ATS and into the hands of a real person. Why not take any advantage you can get?