Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Eight Tips for Using Fonts Effectively on Your Resume

Part of my job as queen of the resume books at JIST has been to take the sample resumes from the authors, proofread them (or have them proofed by someone else), check the fonts to make sure they look as the author intended, and fix as needed. Then I PDF them and send them to layout. Many of my books have as many as 100 sample resumes, and some have more than 300. So, many thousands of resumes have passed through my hands this way. And as you might recall, I am in the midst of hiring a new editor. So I’m looking at lots of real resumes now, too.

I love fonts—I just adore them—and using them correctly can have a big impact on your resume’s success (or failure). Here are some ideas for using fonts as effectively as possible on your resume.

  1. If you’re using a font nobody else is likely to have on their computer, convert your resume to a PDF before you send it. Twice this week I got resumes that used some very obscure fonts. When I opened them on my computer, they had turned to generic-looking Courier because I don’t have those fonts installed. (And I just inherited a computer from a graphic designer, so I’ve got hundreds of fonts now.)
  2. Don’t use more than two fonts on your resume. I like to use a nice true bold, sans serif font for the headings and a readable serif font for the text. There are always exceptions to this rule, and they can work fine. Just don’t make your resume look like a ransom note. (OMG, is that my own original thought, or did I subconsciously plagiarize it from Mike Farr? Sometimes I lose track.)
  3. Stick to black text. I’ve seen some resumes that used color on the fonts for emphasis, and they were stunning onscreen. But when they were printed on a black-and-white printer (and not many offices have color printers), they were almost unreadable.
  4. Don’t use goofy fonts. If I see one more resume done in the cartoonish Comic Sans font, I will scream. People, that is so 1990s. And it doesn’t help your credibility.
  5. Don’t be afraid to keep it simple. Susan Britton Whitcomb, author of Résumé Magic, generally uses Times New Roman on most of her resumes—the most common font imaginable. But she makes it look elegant with proper boldfacing, small caps, and well-placed rules.
  6. Use your font choice to perpetuate your personal brand. If you want to emphasize your creativity, you can use a script font (as long as it’s readable) for headings. If you’re an accountant, Times New Roman is a good choice. I’m experimenting with old newspaper fonts on my resume to put forward a “retro-but-savvy woman of words” image.
  7. Pick the right font size. Some fonts are just naturally bigger than others. Experiment with sizes until you find one that’s readable and allows you to keep your resume on one or two pages.
  8. If you’re pasting your resume into an e-mail or an online database, use Courier. In this case, font doesn’t matter, and it will probably end up looking like Courier, anyway. Be careful not to use rules or bullets, because they will drop out. Instead, you can use keyboard characters to imitate these elements.

In all honesty, if the perfect candidate's resume came across my desk and broke one of these rules, I would hope it wouldn't keep me from calling them in for an interview. But in the ultra-competitive game of job seeking, why not give yourself every advantage possible?

1 comment:

tianodesign said...

Still? I remember back in 1989 when I got my first Macintosh and laser printer, how thrilled I was to have 300 dpi, which, to me, looked for all the world like print quality. The first thing I reminded myself was not to use every font I owned simply because I could.