When it’s time to create a resume, you have a lot of decisions to make regarding what information to convey and how to best convey it. Should you add your graduation year? How many years back should you add? Do you really need to say “references available upon request?”
There are so many things to focus on content-wise that thinking about how to best format the information can take a backseat, but the way a resume looks can play a big role in how favorably it is viewed by a potential employer.
One of the first questions you may have about formatting your resume is what size font you should use. As with all documents you create for another person, your primary goal should be to make the experience as pleasant as possible for the reader. You should also aim to convey your ability to properly execute a professional document. A resume is the first impression a potential employer has of you, so it’s in your best interest to choose every element carefully — including font size.
You don’t want the person reading your resume to strain their eyes while trying to understand your qualifications, but you don’t want them to feel like you’re shouting at them, either. Aside from your name, which can be as large as twice the size of the font you use throughout the document or headings, which can be up to four sizes larger than your body text size, you should hit the font-size sweet spot and stick to 12-point font. It’s the standard font size for a reason!
If you have a lot of information to include and want to keep your resume from looking cluttered, you may want to slightly decrease your font size, but can you go too small? Of course. But the jury is slightly split on just how small too small is. Many resume specialists suggest keeping your font size no smaller than 10-point and no larger than 12-point while others say that job seekers should use a font size no smaller than 10.5-point. Though it’s a seemingly imperceptible difference that is unlikely to carry make-or-break levels of importance, that .5-point can make it slightly more comfortable for your potential employer to read your resume. After carefully crafting your document, don’t risk having it tossed aside because it’s too difficult to read.
Once again, keep readability in mind when you choose a font to use for your resume. Sans serif fonts (fonts without the ‘tail’ that serif fonts have) are often read as being more sleek and modern while serif fonts give off a feel that’s more structured and formal. Popular sans serif fonts include Calibri (now the Microsoft Word default font), Arial, Helvetica and Verdana. Serif fonts that are commonly used are Times New Roman, Garamond, Georgia and Cambria.
When applying for a position, consider the vibe of the company culture, and let that be a determining factor in the font you use. For example, if you’re applying for a position at a new tech startup or trendy fashion magazine, consider using sans serif fonts that project a contemporary image. If you’re applying to work at an organization that is more formal such as a law firm or bank, a traditional serif font can give your resume a more conventional feel.
Whichever style you choose, it’s generally in your best interest to stick with fonts that are easy to read and often used. Doing so reinforces the idea that you are familiar with professional presentation. Using fonts that are more niche can suggest that you’re not as aware of presentation as you could be. While you shouldn’t go too font style-crazy, you can use up to two different fonts on your resume — one for body text and one for your name and headers. If you choose a serif font for the body of one, use a sans serif font for your headers and vice versa to create a visually compelling resume.
Once again, the company and position should inform the resume format you use, but you should also take your personal experience into consideration. Here are examples of commonly used resume formats and when to use them:
Reverse chronological resume: Those who have had a traditional career path and both an extensive amount of work experience and relevant qualifications are most likely to benefit from this format. It’s the format most favored by recruiters, so it’s typically the best choice unless you have reason not to use it. Your professional experience are emphasized first from most to lease recent before your career objective, educational background and skills.
Functional resume: This format emphasizes skills more heavily than it emphasizes positions held, so applicants who have employment gaps or are beginning their careers are likely to benefit from using it. There are many ways a functional resume can be arranged, and you can choose what sections you include to best highlight your own accomplishments. Every functional resume should include your contact information, career objective summary, areas of expertise and examples, educational background and employment history.
Combination resume: Combination resumes are ideal for those who want to highlight their qualifications relevant to the position they’re applying for and their past experience. The combination format lists your skills first and work experience second. You’re likely to benefit from using this style of resume if you have many skills but little job experience, you’re changing careers or if you’re applying for a career in a new industry but have many skills relevant to the position for which you’re applying.
Targeted resume: The targeted resume is a great tool you can use if you’re seeking a new job later in life. This format is highly customized from a specific position opening. The format looks similar to a combination resume, but the skills are more tightly tailored to the specific job opening.
Kayla Heisler is a New York City-based writer who runs the newsletter totally recc’d.