Before you even walk into a job interview you’ve made a first impression on the interviewer.
How? Through your resume.
According to a study conducted by the job search site TheLadders.com, recruiters spend only about six seconds scanning a resume. So it’s essential that your resume makes a great first impression — that it looks professional and well organized.
How do you do that? You start by using a resume font people can actually read (that’s what this post is for), then you design a resume that stands out from the rest (here’s how you do that).
When you have both these things you go into Canva and design the thing for free in no time (here’s how you upload fonts from this article into Canva and here’s where you go in Canva to start your new resume design right now).
The Best Resume Fonts
Times New Roman is probably the most commonly chosen fonts for resumes—the very reason you should avoid it, and why it appears on our “Worst” list. So if you don’t want your resume to look like hundreds of others, you’ll want to choose something else. And Garamond is a great alternative. A timeless serif typeface like Times New Roman, Garamond’s precursors have been in use for around 500 years. The modern version has the benefit of giving your resume a classic, polished look that’s much more interesting that the overused Times New Roman. As a bonus, if you’re struggling to condense your resume to one to two pages (which is a good idea), Garamond can help you fit more text on a page without sacrificing readability by lowering the font size or crowding your design by tightening up the spacing.
02. Gill Sans
This simple, sophisticated sans-serif typeface, designed in England in the 1920s, will give your resume a look that is both classic and modern. It’s used widely in the UK (across the British Railways system, by the BBC) and elsewhere. You might also notice that Gill Sans is very similar to the custom lettering featured on the famous, WWII-era “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster, rediscovered at a British bookstore in 2000 and subsequently popularized with many replicas of the design. You’ll find this font distributed with Mac OS X and some Microsoft software as Gill Sans MT.
Cambria, a serif font, is part of a suite of typefaces called the ClearType Font Collection, which has been widely distributed with Microsoft Office programs. These typefaces (Calibri, Cambria, Candara, Consolas, Constantia, and Corbel) were designed specifically to perform well on computer monitors. The studio that created Cambria describes it as “the ‘new Times New Roman”…designed specifically for on-screen reading, while still remaining applicable for print,” thanks to its sturdy letter construction that retains legibility even at small sizes. This makes Cambria a good choice for both online and printed resumes.
Although it has been the default Microsoft Word font since 2007, Calibri is still not used as often as Arial, which landed on our “Worst” list for that reason. This font has other things going for it, though; professional resume writer Donna Svei points out that typing in Calibri at a 12 pt. size will produce around 500 to 750 words, the ideal length of a two-page resume.
Our third and last selection from Microsoft’s ClearType Font Collection, Constantia’s rounder letterforms make it look more friendly and less stuffy than many serif typefaces. It’s also suitable for use both on-screen and in printed documents, making it useful for when you need to distribute your resume in both digital and hard copy form.
Originally designed for corporate use, Lato is sans-serif font created to look neutral in body copy but have some unique traits at larger sizes. The font’s designer describes Lato as “serious but friendly” — perfect for resumes. It comes in a wide range of weights and styles, though the “hairline,” “thin,” and “light” weights will be too hard to see at small sizes. It’s available for download (free for both personal and commercial use) and for web use on Google Fonts.
Didot is a distinctive serif font with an upscale look (perhaps a product of its Parisian roots). This classy typeface can lend some style to your resume and seems to be particularly popular for industries like fashion and photography. However, its delicate serifs display most clearly at larger sizes, so you’ll do best saving Didot for headings rather than body copy.
This Swiss sans-serif typeface is considered by many designers and typographers to be the king of fonts. It even has its own self-titled documentary film. Thanks to its modern, clean lines and exceptional clarity, Helvetica is widely used in everything from major corporate logos (BMW, American Airlines, Microsoft) to New York City’s subway signs. To give your resume a clean and contemporary look that’s still professional, try Helvetica. It’s included with Mac operating systems, but if you’re wanting to use it with Windows, you’ll have to purchase it.
Georgia is another alternative to Times New Roman. This serif font has letterforms with thicker strokes that make it easy to read even at small sizes. Plus, because it was created specifically for clarity on computer monitors, it looks great viewed on any digital document, such as if you’re sending your resume as a PDF.
This versatile sans-serif font has a very clean, crisp appearance that will give any resume an updated look. It has multiple weights that you can use to differentiate the various sections and features of your resume, but you should probably avoid the “book” and “light” weights, as well as any condensed versions — they can be hard to read. Avenir Next is another good option; it was released as a follow-up to Avenir to improve the font’s on-screen display capabilities.
The Worst Resume Fonts
01. Times New Roman
Surprised this one is on the list? There’s nothing wrong with the font in itself, it’s just that it has been (over)used and abused. Since everyone else is using it on their resumes, yours won’t stand out. Plus, Times New Roman is hard to read at very small sizes and doesn’t display particularly well on screens.
Like Gill Sans on our “Best” list, Futura was created in the 1920s. Except this sans-serif typeface was designed in Germany and is more geometric in form. Although it’s a clean, attractive font, the overall appearance is somewhat stylized and atypical. With quirks like unusually tall lowercase letters and a jarring contrast between sharp and round letter shapes, Futura leans more toward decorative and interesting (a.k.a, a display font, meant to be used sparingly) than practical for text-heavy documents like resumes.
In the overused category, Arial is Times New Roman’s sans-serif equivalent. Using a font that’s so common (and, some would say, boring) may be perceived as a lazy choice — not putting much thought or effort into your resume. Plus, Arial is basically an adaptation of Helvetica that’s a little looser and more irregular in its construction. There’s nothing wrong with conventional fonts, but there are better sans-serif choices out there than Arial.
Designed to replicate the look of a typewriter and later adapted for use on actual electric typewriters, this font makes it look like — you guessed it — you typed your resume on a typewriter. Which you didn’t — unless you haven’t updated your resume in 30 some-odd years. Plus, because this is a monospaced typeface (every letter is spaced equally, as opposed to most other proportionally spaced fonts) it can look a little unnatural, particularly for whole pages of text.
05. Brush Script
Tempted to put your name at the top of your resume in a script that looks like handwriting to give it a little personality? Don’t do it! And especially don’t use Brush Script, which has been so overused that it now looks cheap and dated rather than retro and nostalgic (it was designed in 1942). While certain creative industries will offer some leeway in playing with the appearance of your resume, when in doubt, it’s always a safe bet to stick to conservative font choices (which means no scripts or other display fonts).
06. Comic Sans
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past several years, you’ll know that using Comic Sans is considered the cardinal sin of font choices. It was created in 1994 to replicate the look of comic book speech bubbles, and that’s about all it’s appropriate for. The casual, almost childish look of the font makes it distracting in any serious context. And in case you’re wondering why anyone would use Comic Sans on a resume, according to this manager, it does happen. Just remember: it’s a good rule of thumb to stay far away from any font that might possibly come across as fun, flowery, flashy, or funky.
07. Century Gothic
Century Gothic has a sleek, modern look, but it’s probably a little too irregular for resumes. Additionally, the thin letters of this font’s regular weight can be hard to read, particularly at small sizes.
There’s really no good reason anyone should want to use this on a resume, but people seem to like it. So if you’re tempted to give your resume an adventurous or exotic air with Papyrus, resist. This font is so cliché (probably second only to Comic Sans) that is has become something of a joke — Fast Co. Design puts it this way: “as everyone who has written a school project over the last decade will tell you, Papyrus is the font you use to spell out the word “Egypt.”
Want to make a bold, confident impression with your resume? You don’t need a bold, heavy font to do it. Impact is most likely intended for use in all caps for headlines, but because it includes lowercase letters, people are sure to use it for body copy, where it’s almost impossible to read.
10. Trajan Pro
Yes, Trajan Pro has a dignified, important feel, but it would be more appropriate etched into stone than typed on your resume. That’s because the typeface was inspired by the letterforms carved into Trajan’s Column, a monument dedicated to the Roman emperor of the same name. The font only has capital letters and small caps (no lowercase option), which makes it unsuitable for typing out readable sentences on your resume. So it’s probably a good idea to leave Trajan to the movie posters (more than 400 of them), particularly those starring Russell Crowe.
For resumes, a font size of 10 to 12 pt. (depending on the particular font, but no smaller than that) is standard. Larger sizes are acceptable for headings or subheadings. Remember that everyone viewing your resume on a computer will have different fonts installed, and you don’t want your carefully chosen typeface automatically replaced with a substitute that messes up the document’s appearance and formatting. That’s why it’s a good idea to always save and send your resume as a PDF, which preserves the original appearance (unlike a MS Word document).
Do you have a favorite (or least favorite) font for resumes? Share in the comments below.