The best and worst resume fonts
True story: I once submitted a resume for a television job written in Comic Sans. It was 1998, and I guess I thought it was cool and funky. Maybe the employer thought so too because I got the job.
Fast-forward to 2015 and Comic Sans is the worst font you could possibly use for anything, ever – the punching bag of fonts, with entire movements dedicated to its eradication. Nobody in their right mind would create a resume in Comic Sans.
So, what font should you use and how much does it matter?
A great deal, suggests a recent Bloomberg article that quotes someone named Brian Hoff of Brian Hoff design as recommending Helvetica. “Helvetica is so no-fuss, it doesn’t really lean in one direction or another. It feels professional, lighthearted, honest,” Hoff says. “Helvetica is safe. Maybe that’s why it’s more business-y.”
Asked about another commonly used font, Times New Roman, Hoff seems to suggest it’s nearly as bad as Comic Sans. Using Times New Roman, he says, is “telegraphing that you didn’t put any thought into the typeface that you selected. It’s like putting on sweatpants.”
Hoff, remember, is a design guy. Of course you want someone applying for a design firm position to demonstrate attention to design. Perhaps less so in other industries. Unfortunately, everyone quoted in the Bloomberg article is a design person – and not a human resources expert.
Further on the subject of serif font – historically, serifs were believed to make things easier to read – the Bloomberg article suggests Garamond, and quotes someone named Matt Luckhurst, creative director at Collins brand consultancy in San Francisco as saying, “Garamond is legible and easy for the eye to follow. Garamond has all these quirks in it, so what that does is allow the eye to see where it should go.”
I think we might be getting just a wee smidge pretentious here. But what do I know? I can barely tell the difference between Garamond and Times New Roman. Though I suspect 80% of hiring managers couldn’t either, which is, I think, my point.
So, to serif or not to serif? Probably not. Just to be on the safe side. If you Google “resume font” or some variation thereof, the majority of the internet is going to suggest you use Helvetica (or some variation thereof). And you never know where the Hoffs and Luckhursts of the world might be lurking.
In fairness, I did consult Workopolis VP of HR Tara Talbot, who burst out with, “Don’t ever use Times New Roman!” She then explained that early in her career she had a boss who once yelled at his staff “If you ever give me anything in Times New Roman you’re effing fired!!!” And it kind of stuck with her. So, it’s more of a fear-instilled aversion, but an aversion nonetheless and one that is clearly not specific to her.
On the other hand, another woman I know who is president of a large corporation told me she likes Times New Roman, but when I told her about the Bloomberg article she asked me not to use her name.
“I feel like I’ve just admitted that I’d pair plaid with stripes,” she said.
For the record, I would totally do that.
Still, I think the message here is not to serif, and, to be safe, use Helvetica in your resume.
Tara Talbot also has some favourites, none of which are Helvetica, and all of which are potentially appropriate.
Obviously, any of the more design-y, gothic, cursive or eclectic fonts are a straight don’t.