Career Development

The Minimalist Approach in How to Chose a Font for Your Resume

Since Steve Job’s love for simple design I have been reevaluating  the minimalist theories; a minimalist life, minimalist principles, minimalist aesthetics are just a few topics I am following in various articles and blogs.

I should first say that I am not a big fan of the minimalist art. I can stare as long as I physically can into Malevich’ Black Square and there is no emotion or artistic vision revealed to me. I might as well stare at a painted wall. The idea that there should be no needless lines or strokes on a drawing is taken to the extreme where all the lines have been deemed unnecessary. I am therefore left with nothing to dream about, to be moved by or simply to smile at.

And yet I enjoy minimalist writing. Hemingway was the first such novelist I fell in love with. Maybe because it happened to discover him right after finishing Dickens’ The Bleak House or just because I fell in love with his direct, naked style: no fluff, no unnecessary adornments and some cussing here and there. Reading him I understood that the flowery Victorian style is not the only one that can move and inspire. But I digress when all I wanted was to write about the boring but so powerful resumes.

A well written resume should be the best minimalist work: few intentionally used words painting a lifetime. Something similar to what Hemingway created when challenged to write a story in 6 words: “For sale: baby shoes, never used.” With this in mind, I decided to apply the same concept: nothing should just land on a resume. From the fonts to the meanings should be thought about, and decided on only after thoughtful consideration.

How many times have you even considered what font to use? If you happened to give it a thought you probably chose it based on how appealing the font was to you. Surprise! The only opinion that matters is the one of the hiring manager. And out of experience, all they care about is how legible it is.

There are so many fonts available and it is quite easy to spend long minutes trying them all just to end up selecting one of the two most popular fonts: Arial and Times New Roman  because of their qualities:

  • Very easy to read
  • Don’t have any unnecessary swirls, windings and tails
  • The spacing between the letters in words and sentences is just right
  • When they are in bold or italics they preserve the same clean, easy to read characteristics even in a smaller font
  • They make the best use of the page space
  • They look best in both hard copy printing and on the Internet (with some preferring Arial over Times New Roman)

Their usability and friendliness have been proven over and over again but haven’t these two fonts lived their lives? Shouldn’t they retire and make room for newer, bolder fonts?  There is no simple answer but my choice in using them over and over again for resumes is that they remain the preferred font for the corporate world. Remember, their opinion matter when we are writing our resumes!

In choosing the right font for your resume,  keep in mind a few rules:

  1. Use a clean font that will make your resume look modern and neat. Reserve the use of  fonts that remind of ancient manuscripts or old handwriting style for your personal writing. They might catch the recruiters’ attention for the wrong reason:  since handwriting is more of our parents and grandparents style, it makes your document look outdated. Companies look for experience packaged into young, modern spirits to join their teams.
  2. Depending on the amount of information the resume contains, chose a font that will use the page wisely and effectively.  If you are a new graduate or have little experience, use a serif font that will have a bit of a tail and allow more room between letters. You want to wisely cover the page by managing the blanks on your page.  If you are more experienced and could fill a booklet with all your accomplishments, choose a clean, narrow font.  You want to maximize the space as possible to include all relevant information.
  3. When choosing the font, a good practice is to consider the main means of communication or the way your resume will be read.  Bear in mind that all serif fonts, because of the limited screen resolution, get a bit blurry on monitors. The sans serif fonts are more popular as they are easier to be read on both, hard and soft copy.
  4. The time a recruiter spends on a resume is somewhere between 7 to 30 seconds.  Sometimes more and sometimes less but definitely within half a minute.  You want the reader to get a lot of relevant information off your resume in a very short time.  Another way your font can help is how easy it is to be read.  Tests have shown that the spacing between letters also affects the readability factor.  Therefore, chose a font that has the optimal spacing – letters are not too close and not too far away but the words they create flow naturally.
  5. Don’t mix and match! Your resume is not an ad for the corner store sales event! Choose a font and stick to it. Ok, maybe two but that is it. Use one different font for your name and keep the other one for the body of the resume.

Chose carefully and according to your needs!  A font that is good for one resume, might not be good for another one.  Keep in mind the position and the industry desired! In publishing, PR and other creative industries showing your artistic side might work in your favour, but when you are looking to get into conservative roles in the corporate world, show them you know their preferred language and stick to classic looks.


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