Fontastic: The History Behind the Top Fonts to Use on a Resume

Fontastic

Applying for a new job is a daunting experience, especially when you realize you haven’t touched your resume in the last 5+ years. While we can’t write about your skills (we know you’re amply qualified, though), we CAN offer some interesting info about the font you choose.

The job-search website Monster.com suggests a list of the best fonts to use on a resume. We've taken that list and added some font-astic backstories.

No need to stress! We’re working our way to the top together. Just flip through, relax, and have fun choosing your font!

#9 Didot

If you want your resume to say “I’m unruffled, elegant, rational, and expensive,” Didot is your font.

This font gets its name from a renowned French family of master font-creators and printmakers. The patriarch, Firmin Didot lived in the 1700s-1800s, during the Age of Enlightenment. He took a typeface that was once exclusively used by kings and amplified its features for the public. In Didot’s day, the font was noted for its “noble simplicity” and “calm grandeur.”

Marrying the classical and progressive, the Didot font is considered the first “modern” typeface. Monster.com says it has “panache.” Others agree it’s elegant, but maybe too “clinical” and stiff (read: “toy soldiers on parade”). It’s also a font commonly found in fashion magazines and on luxury brands.

#8 Trebuchet MS

Because everyone—job recruiters included—is attached to their smartphone, choosing a font with extra screen-readability is a good idea.

Trebuchet MS is definitely readable, even on small screens. Vincent Connare created this font for Microsoft in 1996. It’s got a friendly kick perfect for creative fields.

The word trebuchet describes a catapult used in medieval siege warfare to launch stones at the enemy. (No, the MS in this font doesn’t stand for “medieval siege.” We're disappointed, too.)

Connare was inspired by a puzzle circulated within the Microsoft headquarters: is it mathematically possible to create a trebuchet that can launch a person a mile away? His witty creation is now our #8 pick for launching your top-notch skills, expertise, and values into recruiters’ laps…thousands of miles from where you are.

#7 Book Antiqua

English majors, librarians, and professors aren’t the only ones who can use Book Antiqua, but the name does hint that this font is good for specialists in the arts and humanities. The word antiqua refers to a softer style of typeface used in Renaissance Italy (the opposite of bold German Gothic script). Don’t be too quick to judge the book by its cover, though—this font has some chutzpah.  

Also created for Windows, Book Antiqua is actually a copy of Palatino, a typeface designed in 1949 by the calligrapher Herman Zapf. Zapf was so upset that Monotype (the company that designed Book Antiqua for Windows) unethically “pillaged” his work that he resigned from the international association of typography. The beef was apparently resolved, but if we needed a plot for a font soap opera, this is it.

#6 Garamond

Garamond hails from the 1500s, thanks to the typeface designs of Claude Garamond. Since the Renaissance, several variations have been inking our pages. One famous version was unveiled at the Paris World’s Fair in 1900.

Although graceful, this font might read a little stuffy because of its old French engravers’ ancestry. Still, one person’s “old” is another person’s “classic,” so consider this with your own background in mind. If you have years of experience in your field, this font will convey that well.  

#5 Cambria

With a relatively recent release date of 2004, Cambria was designed with on-screen readability in mind. This font is part of a collection called ClearType, so you’ll really have to make sure you're making sense, because whatever you put out there is going to be clearly legible!

Cambria is a good fit for people in scientific and mathematical fields. A variation of the font, called Cambria Math, should be reason enough for you! That font has usurped Times New Roman as a smart one to use for math and science texts.

While we aren't sure of the real inspiration behind this font's name, Cambria is the medieval term for Wales and traces back to an ancient British word, combrogi, “fellow-countrymen.”  Dependable, inclusive, respectful sentiments for any resume.

#4 Verdana

Like Trebuchet MS, Verdana was created in 1996 by another Microsoft designer, Matthew Carter. Carter’s font is clean, modern, and ideal for screens. The proportions and spacing of the typeface work well even on small screens and at low resolutions. (And this last part comes in handy if/when recruiters want to print out your resume.)

Verdana gets its name in part from the verdant green of Washington, the Evergreen State and Microsoft’s home.

For the busy bees with loaded CVs, Verdana may not be the one to choose; the wider letters take up more space, which means you can’t cram your life on there. On the flipside, using this font will help you cut the fat!

#3 Arial

Arial, meaning “sprite” or “lion of God” in Hebrew and “vigorous” in Welsh, is seen as a softer and less mechanical font. So it’s great for creative dynamos.

But, remember Monotype, the company that "shamelessly" imitated Palatino with our #7 font? Well it did the same thing with Arial. Our #3 looks suspiciously like Helvetica and has been cast as a “parasite,” “little more than a shameless impostor.” Sheesh.

Well, it’s great for resumes! And—really—unless you’re a fanatical font designer, who cares? We should also add that Arial was roughly based on a typeface set called the Grotesque series, and that’s a perfect word for all the ridiculous font-filching going on!

#2 Times New Roman

WHAT?! The #2 pick is the mind-numbing font that reminds us of school papers?

Don’t shoot the messenger! (Remember, we didn’t come up with the list.)

An expert for TopResume said Times New Roman matches the “brick-and-mortar feel” of corporate and legal jobs. If one of those is your niche, this font is, apparently, the one to stand by.

The font is a newsy one, named for the London newspaper the Times. Hot off the press in 1932, it’s been a “workhorse” on the page.

Here’s the thing. Yes, it’s classic. But some people think it’s too classic. Maybe entrenched. Your resume might yellow with age on a papery grave marked “Rest, Indistinguishable Person.”

Is it timeless? Or is it time for something new? We’ll let you decide.

#1 Calibri

Drumroll and cymbal-crash for Calibri, a font described by its creator, Lucas de Groot, as having a “warm and soft character.”

Its release in the 2000s makes this a refreshingly youthful font, but of the young-professional ilk, not the I’m-still-eating-Chef-Boyardee-at-mom's-kitchen-counter kind (that would be Comic Sans…stay away from that one!).

In Italian, calibro means caliber and colibri means hummingbird. We aren't sure if either of these words influenced the font name, but we’ll think of a high-quality hummingbird next time we write with Calibri.

Calibri joins Cambria in the ClearType Collection, so you can rest assured your resume will be easily readable on paper and screen. And font psychology research shows it’s associated with stability. So, what’s not to like?

Did we miss your favorite font? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter.

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