In Resumes, Font Size Matters

Martin Yate By Martin Yate July 28, 2020
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In Resumes, Font Size Matters

​So much about a resume's effectiveness comes down to readability. Make sure your chosen font never distracts from the message. In last week's column, we discussed the six fonts that will make your resume readily readable and look most professional:

  • Helvetica                                    
  • Calibri
  • Cambria                                                     
  • Garamond
  • Arial                                            
  • Didot

We discussed how each of these fonts have subtle differences, often related to how a font performs in different sizes. All of these fonts are good choices for your resume and other career management communications (choose one and stick with it; your consistency will impress readers). However, all fonts do not look good in all sizes. Some are stronger when the size of the print must be small, and some are better when a larger size is required.

This could be confusing, but there is an important consideration that will make things easier: Forget the "rule" that resumes can be only one or two pages long; it's outdated and irrelevant today. The idea that someone who is drawn in by the first two pages of your resume will refuse to talk to you because you have a third page of relevant experience is patently absurd. Professional jobs have become more complex, and this naturally requires more explanation and, therefore, space.

When writing your resume, don't worry about fonts and sizing; concentrate on the content. Once you have captured the story that positions you as the perfect candidate for a specific job, pick your font and size. The six fonts above look good and read well at 12 points, which is a nice size for a resume. Scale them down to 10 points and they all become more difficult to read. Don't go below 10.5 points. Make life easier for recruiters and hiring managers by making your resume as visually accessible as you can.

To do this, you need to find a balance between two conflicting considerations:

  • More white space on the page makes your resume more readable.
  • Larger font sizes are easier to read but eat into the white space. 

Look for the ideal balance of font and font size and how they change white space and readability. Create several versions of your resume with a combination of fonts and font sizes so you can compare them. For example, compare Garamond and Arial in the 12-point font size, and you'll see that Arial is almost twice as big. 

The Takeaway

  1. Your customer, in this case your prospective employer, always comes first, so make sure your resume is easy to read.
  2. The rule about one- and two-page resumes is no longer valid. Tell the story, make it readable, and edit it as tightly as you can.
  3. Font and font size are the vehicles that share your message with recruiters and hiring managers. The right combination of font and font size ensures that nothing comes between your message and the reader, so try different combinations.

Always remember that your goal is to make your resume as visually accessible and easy to read as possible. Each of the fonts listed above will deliver on that goal. 

Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR.

From big issues to small, please feel free to e-mail your queries to YourCareerQA@shrm.org. We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know.

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