Typography is about more than just deciding to branch out from Times New Roman (which is a perfectly acceptable choice for your resume)—and while some typography choices can improve the look and legibility of your resume, others have the opposite effect. Always remember that the end goal of writing a resume that ranks highly in an applicant tracking system is for a human to read your resume. Your ultimate intended audience isn’t a database—it’s a human. So it’s important to create a resume that is visually appealing and easy to read.
The following resume tips and examples tell you what common typography mistakes to avoid—and why.
Too many typefaces
While you don’t have to rely on one typeface for your entire resume, your best bet is to limit it to two. Three or more can quickly make for a document that looks haphazard and cluttered. And while there are some simple rules for choosing two typefaces to pair up, matching up more than that is a much higher degree of difficulty.
Also, for the record, a typeface refers to a whole family of fonts. Helvetica is a typeface. Times New Roman is a typeface. Garamond is a typeface. A font, on the other hand, refers to a particular size and weight of a typeface. For example, 12-point Helvetica is a font. 16-point Garamond in bold is a font.
But in an age where computers—not printing presses—are dominant, many people have stopped making the distinction.
Abusing your leading
Leading refers to the space between lines. Many people, bent on fitting their resume onto one page, resort to fussing with margins, leading, and other similar tricks to make it happen. But, as seen above, messing with the leading results in crowded text that’s difficult to read.
You’re much better off trimming and editing your resume’s content. An eye-tracking study of recruiters showed that they spend only 6 seconds reading each individual resume before deciding whether to reject a candidate. In order to be considered for a role, your resume must be clear, concise, and relevant. (And while it is possible to have an effective resume that’s two pages long, it’s clear why keeping your resume to one page is one of the most common resume tips.)
Padding your resume in an attempt to seem more impressive will backfire—including extraneous information means the important information could get overlooked. Volume of content is not the way to earn an interview. Instead of crowding your resume, limit what you include.
Poor color choices
You can use color in your resume—if you do so wisely. As with typefaces, don’t go overboard with an assortment of colors. A Lisa Frank product is the last thing you want your resume to look like.
If you do use color, remember that contrast is important for legibility. Also, eye strain is a real possibility for those who spend their days looking at resumes (whether on screen or on paper). Make sure that if you do use color, it doesn’t make your resume harder to read.
Of course there are certain parts of your resume that you want to emphasize. And using emphasis well can make your resume easier to take in at a glance. It makes sense to draw attention to key pieces, such as your name, job titles, and section headers.
But if you emphasize too many things, then nothing stands out. And if you use too many different types of emphasis, your resume will be harder to read—not easier. Bold, italics, and underlined or capitalized text all have their place and purpose. But they don’t all belong on your resume at once.
Considering the design and appearance of your resume is important. After all, the point of getting past the applicant tracking system is to have a human see your resume. Avoid making the mistakes explained in the above resume tips to make sure you wind up with a resume that is polished and easy to read.