Fonts in your resume
By Mark Swartz
Monster Senior Contributing Writer
The content of your resume—all those carefully chosen action verbs and achievement statements—is what convinces an employer to invite you in for a job interview. That’s why you spend so much time on writing and re-writing the words.
Your choice of fonts is also important. Select the proper type and your resume will be easily read by anyone who needs to view it (or by any scanning system the employer might use to capture your information electronically). But if you try to get overly fancy in order to attract attention, you may instead make your resume practically unreadable.
A font is a specific type of lettering and numbering design that you use in composing a written document. The words you are reading in this article are set in a particular font style used extensively by Monster.ca.
Fonts come in distinct families. They differ in terms of their look and other qualities, such as size, weight and spacing.
When you submit your resume in response to a job posting, your document will either be read directly by people, or will get scanned first into an electronic applicant tracking system. In either case it’s vital that the fonts you use make your words easy to interpret.
Simple, clean fonts like Arial or Verdana guarantee the readability of your text. More ornate fonts, such as those named Informal, Roman, or Chiller, may give your document more personality. They will certainly stand out from ordinary typefaces. However they may also make the reader strain their eyes, or the letters may not be correctly interpreted by scanners. This can drop your resume to the bottom of the pile.
Clean And Sleek Versus Fancy And Memorable
There are two main categories of typefaces. One is called Serif, the other is Sans Serif.
Serif fonts tend to be more stylized. They all have little markings, curves or hooks as part of their design. Here are some examples of Serif font families:
- Times New Roman
- Bookman Old Style
Because Serif fonts are not as sleek as Sans Serif typefaces, you should consider avoiding their use in job applications. They can cause scanning software to make errors and reject your resume.
As for Sans Serifs (which literally means “without serifs”), Arial is the most common family of fonts. It appears often in resumes. Arial is sleek and clean. It does not cause eye strain or scanning hiccups. The following type examples are from the Sans Serif category:
- Segoe UI Semibold
Don’t make the mistake of picking a crisp, clean font that you then shrink down in size, just so you can jam as many words as possible into your resume. That’s a bit like cheating. Better you should edit your content thoroughly to eliminate excess wording.
The more you reduce the size of your font, the less legible it becomes. Thus scanning systems are more likely to misread small print. And the people who must review your application manually may not want to squint. They could skip your submission for others that aren’t so visually challenging.
For a font family such as Arial, using a font size of 10.5 to 12 points gives the best results. When in doubt, go with 11 points. It gives you excellent readability and allows you to fit a good amount of content into your application.
One you decide on which font to go with, you’ll need to consider which style elements to add. This could include the use of bolding, italics, colour, etc.
For the sake of simplicity, opt for standard characters. Minimize the use of bolding except for section headers. Resist the urge to italicize words or phrases for effect: scanning systems might have problems reading such characters.
You can use all capital letters in headers, but don’t write entire sentences in capitals or IT WILL LOOK LIKE YOU ARE SHOUTING AT THE READER.
The default colour for your fonts ought to be black. Unless you’re a graphics professional or in the visual arts fields, you are more likely to make a mess by using colour than to produce an attractive end product.
There’s no need to be fancy when it comes to resume fonts. Stick with one choice (such as Arial) and a couple of styles for variety (e.g. bold, all capitals). This way you won’t overwhelm your reader with a document that looks like it was stitched together by Dr. Frankenstein.
Ultimately you want your resume to be read easily by people and electronic scanners alike. So give them something they can digest effortlessly. Count on your fonts to make your words visually crisp. Count on your words for content that puts you atop the list of interview prospects.
How to Choose the Right Font and Size for a Cover Letter
Which font should you use in your cover letter? What will make the best impression? When you are writing cover letters, it's important to use a font that is clear and easy to read. When hiring managers have to review dozens – if not hundreds – of applicants for a position, they may immediately pass over a cover letter and resume that aren’t instantly legible. Here's how to select a cover letter font and the appropriate font size for your letter.
Be sure to make your font large enough so that the reader doesn't have to squint to read your letter, but not so large that your letter doesn't fit well on the page.
Choose the Best Font Size and Style for Your Cover Letter
When it comes to choosing a font to use in your cover letter, your best bet is to keep it simple and professional. You want your words and message to stand out - not your font choice. Avoid using unprofessional novelty-style fonts such as Comic Sans, handwriting, or script-style fonts.
Ideally, the font used in the cover letter will be both the same size and style as the one used within your resume, to help you present a cohesive package. Review these tips for determining the right font for your cover letter, as well as what size it should be, and which styles are - and are not - appropriate to use within a cover letter.
Best Fonts for Cover Letters
Using a simple font will ensure that your cover letter is easy to read.
Basic fonts like Arial, Courier New, Calibri, Verdana, and Times New Roman work well. Most word processing and email programs will default to a professional and easily readable choice.
Limit yourself to one font in your cover letter; it's best not to mix several fonts in one document.
There is no need to use different styles in a cover letter.
Avoid underlining or italicizing, and use boldface text only when emphasizing quantifiable achievements that need to “pop” on the page.
What's an Appropriate Font Size?
Depending on how much content you have in your letter, select a 10 or 12 font size.
It's best if you can format your cover letter so it fits on one page, with margins that are no large than 1” and no smaller than .7”.
If your letter includes a heading with your name and contact information, you may choose to make this font slightly larger.
How to Select a Cover Letter Font
- Select a font from the list at the top of your document before you start writing your letter, or:
- Type your cover letter.
- Highlight the content of your letter.
- Either select the font from the pop-up window or select the font from the list at the top of the document.
- Select the font size you want to use the same way.
- Proofread your cover letter.
- Print your cover letter, even if you are going to upload it online, to make sure that it is formatted, properly spaced, and looks the way you want.
Include Plenty of White Space
Regardless of the font size you select, there needs to be space at the top of the letter and between each paragraph and each section of your cover letter.
Here's how to space your cover letter.
When you are using Microsoft Word, here is how to select a template for your letter and how to select the font style and font size. If you're using a different word processing program, the process is similar. Select the content of your cover letter, then choose a font and a font size.
You may need to try a couple of different sizes to make sure that your cover letter fits on a single page. Review these formatting tips to be sure your letter will make the best impression.
Email Cover Letters
The information above applies primarily to instances where you are sending a traditional cover letter by snail mail or when you are sending a formal cover letter as a Word or PDF attachment to an email message. Be forewarned that copy-and-pasting a cover letter into the body of an email message may destroy the formatting, making it difficult to read for an employer who may have a different computer system.
The safest thing to do when you are copy-and-pasting your cover letter to email is to remove all formatting and HTML and submit it as plain text.
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