For creative professionals, choosing the right resume font is particularly important. Here’s some expert advice to consider when making your selection.
For many hiring managers in the creative industry, how a resume looks matters as much as what it contains. Pick the wrong font, and you could jeopardize your chances of landing an interview. But because choosing the right resume font is subjective, we asked five noted design experts to share their favorites as well as ones to avoid at all costs.
Our resume font “creative council” included:
- Nicole Jacek, principal, NJ(L.A.)
- Tan Le, group creative director, Anthem Worldwide
- Richard Poulin, partner, Poulin + Morris Inc.
- Bonnie Siegler, principal, Eight and a Half
- Ann Willoughby, principal, Willoughby Design
Even among this small group, some discrepancies arose, furthering the great resume font debate. Read on to get their take — and then weigh in.
What would be your go-to resume font and why?
Le: Gotham would be my choice. It’s a well-designed font family, with many proportional weights, and has enough personality to keep from being too austere or decorative. If a designer can’t design well with Gotham, then that resume is going to make its way to my trash can. Whatever font it is, choose wisely and minimally. No more than two fonts are needed on any resume.
Willoughby: Avenir. It is beautiful and more sophisticated than Helvetica. It is a clean sans-serif alone, and it could be paired with a serif for contrast. Make sure your font(s) work on multi-platforms so that your resume and portfolio translate in both digital and print forms. Most creatives use InDesign or Illustrator to design their resumes. If you make a PDF of your resume, it will be easy to control the design.
Siegler: I haven’t had a resume in 26 years, but if I were to design a resume for myself today, it would probably be in DIN.
Jacek: I don’t care about the font you are using for your resume, to be honest. As long as you are not trying to cover up for your weak resume or design skills. From my experience, that would be anyone using overly decorative, over-designed fonts and over-designed everything. It would be better to put your design efforts into your work. A simple font like Helvetica or Replica works just fine.
Poulin: I do not have a “go-to” font for resumes, or for any other type of visual communication for that matter. I always recommend to students that when developing their resumes, they need to carefully consider several elements: their own visual brand, readability, legibility and, most important, that the typography they use for their resume speaks about them in a manner that is 100 percent reflective of their design values and aesthetics.
What is the worst typeface to use on a resume and why?
Willoughby: Curlz or anything with curlicues.
Siegler: Nothing is better than breaking hard-and-fast rules and making them work. So, there really isn’t a worst typeface. And conversely, even the most beautiful typeface can be used terribly in the wrong hands. I guess what I’m saying is that it’s not really the typeface that matters, it’s the design!
Jacek: Gill Sans. I hate it. As the font for London Underground it’s beautiful, but unless your resume will be signage size with spaced-out all caps, forget about it. And even though I love Chromium, please do not use it for your resume. It will make you look like a shiny idiot.
Le: Avoid display fonts. Again, think of the content, not just the typeface. Display fonts are more decorative and meant to be used for short words or phrases and in larger graphic applications. They are not meant for text or prose, and are usually not designed for legibility. Avoid fonts that are trendy or, worse, cliché. If you don’t know what’s trendy or cliché, well then, you have bigger problems. Stick to the classics and use them well.
What font did you use on your first resume?
Le: Minion. It seemed a good idea at the time.
Jacek: DIN, because Stefan Sagmeister and karlssonwilker used it for all their work. At that time, I really had no sensibility for typefaces, and I really wanted to intern for them. Anyway, it worked.
Poulin: I don’t remember but it was probably some awful typeface that I selected purely for its visual effect (and affect). While it’s no excuse, I was young and typographically naïve.
Willoughby: It has been more than 40 years and I have no idea. It was probably typed on an IBM Selectric, which came out in 1961.
Siegler: For my first resume, I had to mark up a typed sheet of paper with my desired typeface choice, sizes and leading. When I got it back, I made a mechanical with it. If I didn’t like the size of something (or the font), I had to mark it up again and send out for new type. It got expensive if you kept changing your mind! I think I probably ended up using a version of Franklin Gothic.
We assume you’ve received some bad resumes in your day. What’s the worst offense you’ve seen?
Siegler: There have been so many, but most of the truly egregious ones stand out because of the cover letter. People tend to proofread their resumes pretty extensively, but for some reason, not their cover letters. More than once, we have received cover letters addressed to us, but with a sentence about how much the applicant loves another firm’s work, because they forgot to swap out that firm’s name for ours in their clearly very generic cover letter.
Willoughby: Last year a job seeker sent us a beautifully crafted calligraphy poster using our name, Willoughby. Unfortunately, our name was misspelled.
Le: I’ve gotten some really bad resumes through the years. But the worst ones aren’t bad because they’re ugly; they’re bad because it’s obvious the designer doesn’t really understand typography or design. I’ve gotten some that are standard business Word templates in Helvetica, which is a deal breaker for any design position. I’ve gotten many that treated the resume like a gig poster, which shows a lack of control or conveys arrogance, or both. The best resumes are the ones that make me want to read the whole story of that person, served up in a way that conveys personality and style.
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