Since the dawn of time, résumés have been set in either Arial or Times New Roman. Make yours stand out! Research suggests that the font your résumé uses influences the reviewer’s perception of you, so picking the right one is important. But don’t be intimidated–your computer has a whole collection of fonts that are perfectly appropriate for use on your résumé. This article is a basic guide to help you choose the most effective font for your résumé.


Screen vs. Print Fonts

There are many factors to take into account when choosing a typeface for your résumé, but one of the most important is whether you will be submitting your résumé electronically or in print. Many fonts on your computer are designed from the ground up specifically for reading on a screen and have distinctive features which compensate for the limited number of pixels  a computer screen can display. One typical feature of screen fonts is an increased x-height, or relative height of lowercase letters to uppercase ones. This makes them especially suited for a résumé submitted electronically, but they often print well too. As a general rule, avoid using print fonts on screen except in larger, more legible point sizes.


One catch with submitting your résumé electronically is that fonts specified in a document only display on computers they are installed on. If the person who is opening your document doesn’t have that particular font installed, their computer will look for the closest match but may not come up with a font you like or that maintains the formatting you spent hours perfecting. The simplest solution is to convert your résumé to an Adobe PDF (Portable Document Format) file, which displays documents universally on any computer, but some employers require that you submit in the Microsoft Word “.doc” or “.docx” file format. In this case, it is possible to directly embed a font into the document itself, but keep in mind that opening a document with an embedded font usually presents a dialog prompting the user to install it, which may confuse the person reading your résumé. For these reasons, this article tries to recommend some of the most commonly installed fonts. Using one of them should be a safe bet if you are worried about a font not displaying correctly.


 Serif vs. Sans-serif

Another factor to consider is whether or not to use a font with serifs, the little “feet” at the end of letter strokes. The commonly-held perception that serif fonts are more legible has not been backed up by research, so the choice really boils down to personal preference. One rule of thumb throughout the 1990s was to use sans-serif fonts on résumés when applying for jobs in the technology industry because of their more “modern” look.


Lining Figures vs. Text Figures

You should also decide whether you want a font with lining figures, which are constant-height numerals, or with text figures (also known as old-style numerals), numerals whose heights vary like letters. Text figures are elegant, but you may consider their look too fancy for your résumé. Or they might just add that extra touch of class!


Some PC Fonts

The fonts below are installed on most computers running Windows. Cambria, Constantia, and Corbel are the newest and least common, but have been part of the core font collection in Microsoft products since the release of Windows Vista and Office 2007, so they are becoming increasingly ubiquitous. Also, before Microsoft officially licensed the use of Palatino from Linotype, it used a near-copy, Book Antiqua, which is still included on most PCs.

font grid pc


Some Macintosh Fonts

The fonts below are installed on most Apple computers running Mac OS X. Note that the above fonts Georgia, Palatino, Tahoma and Verdana are also available on most Macs! Cambria, Constantia, and Corbel are also available for those with Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac. If you want to make sure the font in your Word 2008 document is installed on Windows machines, be sure to choose a font from the “Font > Font Collections > Windows Office Compatible” menu.

font grid mac


A Final Note on Formatting

In trying out different fonts on your résumé, you’ve probably noticed by now that every font has a different effect on document formatting. For example, two typefaces at the same point size may have different letter widths and spacing, which may cause one line of text to wrap down to the next, or extend your résumé onto a second page. You might be tempted to delete some of your content to make it fit, but instead, try a different point size, reduce the margins a little, or remove extra indentations and hang your bullets to fit more text on a line. You don’t want to remove any information that could convince your potential employer that you are the right candidate for the job!


Additional Resources

1. Does the Typeface of a Resume Impact Our Perception of the Applicant?

2. How to embed a TrueType font in a document

3. Which Are More Legible: Serif or Sans Serif Typefaces?

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