RÉSUMÉ ENCYCLOPEDIA

FONTS FOR RÉSUMÉS

 

SUMMARY:

1. Times (Times New Roman) is still (as of 2024) number 1 as far as fonts for résumés are concerned.

2. Helvetica/Arial is okay, but not as good as Times. (Helvetica and Arial are different fonts, but you can use either of them. Arial was designed so that text won’t re-rerun when switched between the two fonts.)

3. The only problem with Georgia is that it takes up too much space for the same wordage. Space-efficiency is critical for most résumés.

4. Use anything else and you’re asking for trouble. (That includes Calibri, though it’s safer than most.) Many résumé services and other “experts” lack the basic technical and typographic knowledge needed to recognize this.

 

BACKGROUND AND DETAILS:

Only a very small number of fonts are both typographically suitable for résumés and present on all computers. The fontware that makes fonts printable doesn’t get transmitted along with Word documents (or most other documents that use them—PDFs being the exception). If the person receiving your résumé doesn’t have the fonts you used to compose it, another font will be substituted. Lines will rerun, page breaks will change, and the appearance and readability of your résumé will be seriously degraded.

To be typographically suitable for résumés, a face must be well-designed, readable and legible at smaller sizes on desktop printed output, space-efficient, and pretty conventional looking. Most of the fonts that are more or less universally available on computers don’t meet these criteria.

Many résumé writers (and virtually all graphic designers) are not aware of issues of font suitability and availability. (Often, they learn about these subjects from “authorities” who are not well-informed. These authorities are usually graphic designers. Graphic designers have been radically ignorant of typographic technology and functional issues since long before the desktop era. The real typographic work was done by technical typographic production specialists.) It’s not unusual to see résumé writers—including some expensive and highly certified ones—using fonts that aren’t universally available. Their résumés may come out looking very bad on the employer’s side.

Among serif fonts (serifs are the little pointy extensions on the ends of most strokes in a letter), for a long time, the only universally available font that was suitable for résumés was Times. In recent years, Georgia has become widely enough available to be considered safe as far as availability is concerned. Georgia was designed—and very well designed—as standard serif face for websites. (It’s used for all serif type on this site except our logo.) It is also a good, readable face for print usage. BUT résumés usually require efficient use of space, and Georgia is much less space-efficient than Times: it requires up to about 15% more room for the same wordage (unless it’s set with the letters so close together that the text looks bad, a trick which some graphic designers will try). On the rare occasions that space-efficiency is not needed for a résumé I'm preparing, I’ll use Georgia. (See below for a bit more about Georgia, if you’re curious.)

Sans-serif faces (no serifs) are usable for résumés, but are somewhat inferior in readability and legibility to serif faces for text, and especially for smaller-sized, number-intensive text like résumés. (In many sans-serif faces, the characters I, l, i, and 1 aren’t sufficiently distinguishable, especially on screen, and can cause hitches or mistakes in rapid reading—which is the kind of reading résumés get.) For this reason, they are less often used for résumés. Arial, an inferior imitation of Helvetica, was for a long time the only sans-serif face universally available. (Helvetica itself is common mainly on Macs, though most computers will automatically substitute Arial for Helvetica, or vice versa, depending on which is available.)

CALIBRI: NOT QUITE TOTALLY SAFE, AND WITH A DUBIOUS FUTURE

Calibri is a popular sans serif font for résumés, but its universal availability is not to be counted on—and once again, if the person at the other end doesn’t have the font, the formatting on your résumé will be degraded. Calibri may not be found on Macs, unless perhaps they have Microsoft Word installed. And in 2023 Calibri was replaced by Aptos as the default font for Word, so its long-term future may be doubtful even on Windows. Aptos is another sans-serif font, and has the same platform-based availability limitations as Calibri, only more serious, because it wasn’t a Microsoft default font for twenty years as was Calibri. Calibri and Aptos both have limitations similar to those of other sans serifs, though they are better in that the numeral 1 (one) and, in Aptos the lower-case l (ell) are distinguishable from similar letters. Like Helvetica, they're not bad, but Times is better.

 

FOR THE CURIOUS—MORE ABOUT RÉSUMÉ FONTS

GEORGIA: THE HISTORY. Georgia is in fact a cross between Times and a typeface called Century Schoolbook. Times was originally designed for space efficiency first and foremost—as a text face for newspapers, where space-efficiency was critical. Legibility is also important for newspapers, and Times is a famously legible face, but there were still tradeoffs in favor of space-efficiency. (The original Times was, and is, Times New Roman. But that story is too long for this page.) Century Schoolbook, on the other hand, was designed without any regard for space-efficiency at all. It was designed for elementary-level schoolbooks, where all that counted was legibility for easy reading. Legibility is also crucial for screen displays, which are still often of lower resolution than the print applications for which Times was devised. They can’t hold the fine detail that Times took advantage of to minimize the tradeoff between legibility and space-efficiency. This is why Georgia looks better on screen than Times, at the sizes normally used for text. It also works better on screen than Century Schoolbook, since the subtleties of a letterform’s curves should be optimized for screen display, which was not an issue when Century Schoolbook was designed.

GARAMOND. A fairly common example of an inappropriate résumé font—an inappropriate text font, for that matter—is the standard computer font commonly labeled “Garamond.” But there are many different Garamonds, and they’re not all the same. They don’t even all have “Garamond” in their names. (Some of the most important ones are: Garamond No. 3, Monotype Garamond, Granjon, Sabon, and, not least, the superb Adobe Garamond.) The classic Garamonds, whatever they are called, are highly esteemed text faces for printed books (and one of my favorites). However, they don’t look as good on desktop printer output or on screen, especially at smaller sizes, since they have fine details that require high resolutions—typically 1200 dpi—to render properly. They were designed for letterpress and offset printing, where resolution is not an issue (as long as the paper is reasonably good). In addition, the standard computer font commonly labeled “Garamond” is actually a font called ITC Garamond, which is radically different from the classic Garamonds. It was designed for advertising sell copy, not books or periodicals or any but the shortest informational text. It achieved a well-merited popularity in advertising. But it is far from space-efficient, and still requires very high resolution for good rendering. The people who chose ITC Garamond as a standard computer font, way back when, apparently didn’t know this when they went looking for a “Garamond.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

“It is better to know less than to know so much that ain’t so.”

—Josh Billings (American humorist)

 

 

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