A résumé, that piece of paper designed to reflect your best self, is one of the places where people still tend to use typeface to express themselves. It does not always go well, according to people who spend a lot of time looking at fonts. Bloomberg asked three typography wonks which typefaces make a curriculum vitae look classiest, which should never, ever be seen by an employer, and whether emojis are fair game.
We went digging for a complete set of professionally fly fonts and returned with just one consensus winner: Helvetica.
“Helvetica is so no-fuss, it doesn’t really lean in one direction or another. It feels professional, lighthearted, honest,” says Brian Hoff, creative director of Brian Hoff Design. “Helvetica is safe. Maybe that’s why it’s more business-y.”
There are other options that, like Helvetica, are sans-serif, meaning their letters do not have the tiny “feet” that adorn the “T” in Times New Roman, for example. Do not choose a cheap imitator, the experts counsel. “If it’s me, [I’m using] Helvetica. Helvetica is beautiful,” says Matt Luckhurst, the creative director at Collins, a brand consultancy, in San Francisco. “There is only one Helvetica.”
Unless you’re applying for a design job, human resource professionals probably wouldn’t notice a knockoff font. But you would be on the wrong side of good taste. Could you live with that?
Say you’re a high roller and want to actually purchase a font. Go with Proxima Nova, which Hoff calls a “cousin to Helvetica” with less of an edge.
“It has a softer feel. Helvetica can be more stiff, and Proxima Nova feels a little rounder,” Hoff says. Proxima Nova is apparently a hit among suits. “I never met a client that didn’t like that typeface,” he says. That kind of popularity does not come cheap: Just one style of the font costs $29.99 at myfonts.com, and the entire 144-member family costs $734.
If you are very experienced, use Garamond to get your long rap sheet to fit into a single page. “Garamond is legible and easy for the eye to follow,” says Luckhurst. “Garamond has all these quirks in it, so what that does is allow the eye to see where it should go.”
There’s some controversy over the classic Times New Roman. “I don’t have any problem with Times New Roman,” says Martina Flor, a letterer and designer in Berlin, Germany. She acknowledges that it has the reputation of being staid, but says the font is not to blame. “It has been a system font for a long time. It’s been used and misused a lot.”