Searching for a new job means having to make a large number of decisions, from your potential salary range to how far you're willing to commute. Yet one tiny decision could mean the difference between getting yourself in front of a potential employer and getting ignored altogether: your resume's font.
With myriad typeface options to choose from, selecting a font that both spotlights your sense of style while remaining as readable as possible is critical. Choose the wrong font, and your resume could land at the bottom of a trash can – despite your skills and years of experience – according to Steven Davis.
"We only have one chance to make a first impression, so when someone opens a [resume], those first eight or nine seconds is that first impression," he said. "If the font isn't appealing and easy on the eyes, that person clicks off the document and the candidate is toast."
To avoid getting passed by, you should consider the fact that hiring managers and recruiters spend hours each day thumbing through thousands of documents. Fonts that have enough white space to read well on both screen and print will make your resume more accessible, Davis says.
Regardless of whether the font you choose is in the serif or sans-serif font family, the following fonts are considered some of the best to use, according to resume and career experts.
Having replaced Times New Roman as the default Microsoft Word font, Calibri is an excellent option for a safe, universally readable sans-serif font. Davis described the typeface as his "font of choice" when working with clients.
This serif font is another Microsoft Word staple. Created back in 2004, this typeface was designed to work well for "on-screen reading and to look good when printed at small sizes." Christian Eilers, a resume expert at Zety, said the font was a great choice for resumes and cover letters, even if it's often considered one of the more "traditional" options.
Job seekers looking for an old-style font may want to consider using Garamond for their resumes. Named after 16th century French type designer Claude Garamont, this typeface is a "great choice for academic resumes and for those with years' worth of work experience," wrote Cleverism.
If you want a traditional-looking alternative to the oft-overused Times New Roman, consider switching to Georgia. A Colorado Technical University infographic on Mashable recommended using Georgia because of its readability: The font was designed to be read on screens and is available on any computer.
This clean, modern, sans-serif font is a favorite among designers and typographers. Helvetica appears in numerous corporate brand logos (Jeep, Panasonic and Lufthansa) and even on New York City subway signs. In an article on Bloomberg Business, typography expert Brian Hoff of Brian Hoff Design described it as "professional, lighthearted and honest," noting that it reads as "business-y."
If you want to use a sans-serif font, Arial is considered by many to be the safest bet. While it's still largely considered a good choice, it's worth noting that Arial has become common enough for some hiring managers to find it boring.
7. Book Antiqua
Based on the classic Palatino font, Book Antiqua has a "distinctive and gentle" style that's great for anyone looking to use a serif font without having to rely on the oft-maligned Times New Roman. Since it's readily available on Microsoft machines, this typeface will be easily read on a screen, making it easier for hiring managers and recruiters to learn more about you.
8. Trebuchet MS
Job seekers who want a sans-serif typeface but don't want to use Arial or Verdana can switch to Trebuchet MS. This font was specifically designed to appear well on a screen. It's also a bit more textured and modern-looking than many traditional resume fonts.
Other resume font choices
Along with our picks, some other popular resume font choices that are clear, legible and scalable include:
Serif – Bell MT, Bodoni MT, Bookman Old Style, Goudy Old Style
Sans-serif – Century Gothic, Gill Sans MT, Lucida Sans, Tahoma, Verdana
Font isn't everything…
When sitting down to start writing your resume, keep in mind that the typeface you choose is just the first step. Remember that the ultimate goal is to highlight your qualities and get you in the door for an interview. Davis warns that things like size and formatting are just as important as which font you use.
"When I go to sleep at night, I close my eyes and I see bullets everywhere. Almost every resume I see has bullets and some people use fonts that strain the eye," he said. Arial may still be a staple of resume builders everywhere, he said, but making it smaller than 10 points makes it "one of the most difficult fonts to read."
Headings should be large enough to catch the eye, while the meat of your resume containing your job description and other qualities should be 11 point.
You should also consider the job when putting your resume together. If you're looking to get into a more creative field, it's okay to use more unconventional fonts, Davis said.
"By the time a hiring manager gets to you, is that font going to captivate them? Even a minor issue like having a too-small font could be a deal breaker," he said. "It might be inconsequential, but it's a factor."