First of all, let’s agree that informed sources often disagree on the best font for a resume.
Take Times New Roman, for instance. Some experts rank it among the worst resume fonts. But others list it No. 1 among good resume fonts! What about Helvetica? Some deride it as an antiquated, overused font that you should erase from your type library. Others say it’s best by test — a proven success!
What about serif vs. sans serif fonts? Some say sans serif fonts are easier to read, and some say the exact opposite. How do you make sense of the conflicting advice out there on this important formatting decision?
Bear in mind that the recommendations of font savants often come down to a matter of opinion. No matter how scholarly or heavily footnoted some articles on this topic are, at times it’s like reading about whether bananas taste better than apples.
However, there are certain indisputable principles for best resume fonts that we’ll explore here. We’ll also look at
- Some of the most commonly mentioned and used resume fonts — pro or con
- Varied opinions on whether to use a serif or sans serif font for a resume
- Recommended resume font sizes for resumes and why size matters
- Other considerations: print or digital medium, the target industry and profession
And by way of definition: If we also mention “CV fonts” or “best fonts for “CVs,” bear in mind that a CV is simply what most of the English-speaking world outside the U.S. and Canada calls a resume.)
List of the best fonts for a resume
The best resume fonts are those that are most legible, meaning easy to read, regardless of your resume's layout and design elements.
Some fonts are considered easier to read in print (where light shines on top of them), and others are considered easier to read on a screen (where the light comes from behind them).
There is no single best resume font, but there are several factors to consider in choosing the best font for your CV. Your guiding principle should be that you want hiring managers and recruiters to read the content of your resume, and not to be distracted by an unusual font you’ve chosen.
Let’s look at some resume font choices (presented in alphabetical order) and some of their pros and cons. We’ll rank them green (go for it), yellow (use with caution) and red (don’t go there).
Top 8 commonly used good resume fonts (green)
These fonts are widely considered good fonts for a resume.
Arial: A popular and safe choice for a modern sans serif font, Arial is applauded for clean lines and good legibility. But some say Arial is little more than a modification of Helvetica and may soon become a victim of its own success by virtue of being too common.
Calibri: Microsoft Word’s default font, Calibri is a highly readable sans serif font to use for a resume — not as popular as Arial but with few minuses except that its increasing use may not give your resume a distinctive look.
Cambria: A serif font commissioned by Microsoft and designed for computer monitors, Cambria works well in small sizes and yet, while created in 2004, is described as somewhat “traditional.”
Garamond: Whether you call it “timeless” or just “old,” Garamond is a classic serif font with 500-year-old roots that still manages to look distinctive and interesting.
Georgia: This attractive serif font, an alternative to Times New Roman, reads well even in small sizes, though its popularity will not make your resume stand out from the crowd.
Lato: A modern font designed by Google for the web, Lato was designed to be a “serious but friendly” sans serif font. It’s found in the Google Font library but is not a standard Microsoft Word typeface.
Trebuchet MS: Commissioned by Microsoft, this elegant sans serif font was designed to look good on a computer, though if you want to use all its features, you’ll have to purchase Trebuchet Pro.
Verdana: A popular san serif font designed by Microsoft for computer screens, Verdana is a go-to choice for resumes, though some say it doesn’t look much different from Arial or Helvetica.
Top 5 situational resume fonts (yellow)
These situational fonts are recommended by some sources yet discouraged by others, so use with caution. Think about whether they’re appropriate for the job and the employer.
Helvetica: This classic, widely used sans serif typeface is probably the world’s best-known font (and even stars in a documentary film of the same name). But it’s so common that many say it’s too common.
Times New Roman: Formerly the default typeface for Microsoft Office, this old-school serif font is beloved by some for its familiarity yet dismissed by others for the same reason: It’s old-fashioned and boring.
Roboto, Open Sans, Ubuntu: As we already mentioned, these are common IT fonts, popularized by Google and other tech giants. They are usually clean and legible, but may be too “techy” for some more traditional employers.
Worst 6 fonts to use in your resume (red)
Virtually all sources recommend against these fonts for a resume. Whether you call these the “worst resume fonts” or “extremely situational fonts” or “really think about what you’re doing fonts” is up to you. Bottom line: Extreme caution is advised.
Brush Script: This and other typefaces made to look like cursive handwriting may be great fonts to choose for a wedding invitation, but don’t use them on a resume.
Century Gothic: This hairline-thin font may be interesting to look at, but it’s definitely not the best font for a CV.
Comic Sans: Designed to look like the text used in comic books, Comic Sans inspires rare agreement among font experts that it doesn’t belong anywhere near a resume.
Courier: Mimicking an old-fashioned typewriter, Courier may appeal to your nostalgia. But in addition to other demerits, it features unhelpful horizontal spacing, providing the same amount of space for thin letters like “i” and wide letters like “w.”
Impact: Anything resembling this over-bold, heavily condensed font will save recruiters a lot of time — they will toss it at a glance.
Papyrus: Unless you’re designing a poster for a movie about ancient Egypt, consign this picturesque font to the trash heap of history.
What category of fonts to use for a resume: serif or sans serif?
This is a question that often comes up when considering resume fonts: what are serif fonts and should you use them in your resume? Let’s break it down.
Serif fonts are those that have decorative little strokes (serifs) added to the letters of the alphabet. For example, in most serif fonts the letter “l” as in “lemon” has a little horizontal line at the bottom, like a base the letter rests on, and a little horizontal stroke at the top jutting toward the left.
Sans serif fonts: The French “sans” means without, so sans serif fonts do not contain serifs. Sans serif fonts tend to render letters as we were taught to do in grade school, free of artistic flourishes.
Pros and cons: Sans serif fonts are often considered “cleaner” and less cluttered. Some psychology and marketing experts like Nick Kolenda say that sans serif fonts are more readable on computer screens, while serif fonts are more readable in print. However, agreement on this is by no means universal. On balance, probably a majority of experts recommend sans serif fonts for resumes.
However, studies from 2005 to 2011 show that serif fonts are seen as more credible and authoritative, while readers may be more skeptical of information contained in more informal sans serif fonts.
Which font for a resume: summary of rules to follow
Clean and legible: Make sure your chosen resume font does not look too noisy once the resume page is populated by text. Serif fonts (for example) can often overburden a resume describing a robust career, but your mileage may vary. Just make sure your own eyes don’t hurt when trying to read a dense paragraph or bullet point list. If you find it difficult to focus due to the noisiness of the text, chances are the hiring manager will too.
Appropriate for the medium: Pay attention to how your font of choice looks on a digital screen or on paper. Handing over a paper document is becoming increasingly rare these days, but if you plan to bring the resume with you to an interview or share during a networking event, make sure your chosen font actually works on a physical page.
Appropriate for the industry and profession: If you’re sending your resume to a forward-thinking IT or web development company, you might want to consider some of the industry staples, like Google’s pet font, Roboto, or web developer favorites like Open Sans or Ubuntu. If your resume is heading to a more traditional business, consider more widely accepted fonts, often found in Windows or iOS systems, like Arial, Calibri or Georgia. In some cases, even creative fonts like Futura or Montserrat may work, as visual designers favor them, but you have to be purposeful and thoughtful in your choices.
Which fonts not to use in a resume
- Fonts that just look weird: Unusual, avant-garde, over-designed fonts are inappropriate for a resume.
- Fonts that look like cursive: The only cursive in your job application, if any, should be your signature, so avoid fonts that mimic handwriting, or where the plain text looks like italics.
- Anything in all caps or small caps: Fonts with all capital letters are never appropriate for the body text of a resume.
These rules apply to body text, but you have a bit more leeway in header design. For example, the first and largest text on the page will generally be your name, and it may be appropriate to choose a more distinctive font style for this.
Now let's talk about the importance of resume font size — how big is big enough?
The best font size for a resume
The best font size for a resume, in most cases, is somewhere between 10 and 12 points.
Remember that your goal in choosing both resume font and resume font size is to make your CV as easy to read as possible. Most hiring managers spend just a few seconds scanning a resume, and for a positive first impression, how it looks can be just as important as what it says. If recruiters are able to read other resumes easily, but have to reach for their reading glasses to decipher yours, they may find yours easier to ignore.
On the other hand, if your font size is too large it may look like you’re writing for children, or for senior citizens with failing eyesight. One of the main imperatives involving font size is the need to fit your resume on one page. (In rare cases, a resume longer than one page may be considered appropriate, but that’s a risky proposition.)
There are some fonts that are easier to read in smaller sizes than others. So when choosing your resume font, experiment a bit with the size to see how it affects legibility.
If your resume doesn’t fit on one page with a 12-point font size, try a size as low as 10 points, but no smaller. Always try to trim your text before you resort to formatting solutions like reducing font size, downsizing margins or eliminating paragraph breaks. Always leave room for an appropriate amount of white space to avoid a resume that’s too dense.
If you’re still having a hard time holding your resume to one page, you can try changing the font to one that’s slightly more compressed, as long as the new font meets the standards outlined here. You may find that a font change instantly solves your problem. But don't choose a font that’s so compressed it’s hard to read.
Professional fonts in Word or other software
There are certain commonly used professional fonts in Word, the popular Microsoft application, and others more often used in Google applications and Apple platforms.
Free-form Word software allows for a lot of freedom in choosing your resume font, but the breadth of options can also breed confusion. Choosing good CV fonts is complicated by the fact that the formatting in Word documents can look different on your device than on someone else’s. What looks fine on your PC with a 10-point Arial font may look really bad on someone else’s iPhone. This is why the PDF file format is usually best for preserving the exact visual impression you want to convey with fonts, since PDFs lock your design in place so that it will look the same on any device.
In some methods of creating resumes, like online resume builders, good resume fonts are usually matched up by professional designers with the resume templates where they will be most effective. Using a pre-designed template takes the guesswork out of the process, since an expert designer has already chosen a good font to use for your resume. All you need to do is choose an appropriate template design category based on your occupation, or follow an applicable occupation-specific example guide, and you’re good to go.
- There is no such thing as the one and only best resume font. Nor is there a consensus among experts choosing their favorites for any top contender list.There is also disagreement on whether serif or sans serif fonts in a resume make a better impression on the recipient.
- Take a look at examples of the most commonly used resume fonts — pros and cons — and those considered okay in some situations, or never.
- Readability should always be your No. 1 consideration when choosing a resume font. That goes for resume font style and font size.
- Also take into account the target industry and profession, and whether your resume will be printed on paper \ or viewed on a digital screen.