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A recent article in Nature discusses the effect of typeface on credibility, and points to another study suggesting that

resumes displayed in a high appropriate typeface (Corbel), resulted in the applicant being perceived as more knowledgeable, mature, experienced, professional, believable, and trustworthy than when displayed in a neutral typeface (Tempus Sans) or low appropriate typeface (Vivaldi). ...

Of the typefaces in the study, I would only consider using Corbel - but I don't think this indicates that Corbel is the best, only that it is better than the others in the study, which were rather silly (also Playbill, Bauhaus).

I generally use the LaTeX default Roman font. I could switch to the default sans serif or any font from the LaTeX catalogue but it doesn't include Corbel.

What other fonts should I consider for a curriculum vitae, and is there any way to predict how people will respond to them?

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FWIW Serifs come from the brushmarks that were used to layout text before it was carved into stone, this is where Roman fonts originate, from the Trajan inscription. – user4491 May 6 '12 at 19:48
Odd question... You may as well ask "What color tie should I wear to an interview?" -- It all comes down to opinion and even articles expressing a solid answer are still merely that writers opinion. In terms of design... your font choice for a resume reflects upon your design abilities. It's not something you should trust to anyone else. – Scott May 9 at 22:01
@scott the article uses experimental evidence to provide an objective conclusion instead of an opinion – David LeBauer May 10 at 2:06
Without paying for the "study", I'd suspect it's highly opinion-based. You can't test subjective materials to determine why people like or dislike what they do. You can only test objective data. So "what typeface works best" is entirely dependent upon the person reading the type. Some people like the color red, others prefer the color blue. There's no scientific data which can explain or predict that preference. Any study touting evidence of subjective definitives is, well, less than worthy of attention. If definitives could be determined, there'd be no need for designers ever. – Scott May 10 at 2:15
@scott the study tests how a sample of readers perceive credibility of an applicant based on the cv. The font is the treatment effect, and the perception of credibility is the effect. This is how science is done. Te interpretation may be subjective but the magnitude of difference attributable to font can still be objectively estimated. – David LeBauer May 10 at 2:35

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Of course someone is going to look more professional and knowledgeable using Corbel if the rest of the candidates used those other typefaces. They might as well have compared Corbel to Comic Sans. Makes you wonder if people actually use script and decorative type for resumes.


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Tempus Sans:

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My recommendations for your interest would be serif typefaces like Palatino, Adobe Garamond Pro or Arno Pro. If you want to look more modern with a sans typeface, then perhaps Futura or the ubiquitous Helvetica will suit you. But keep in mind, even with robust and professional typefaces that have proven their worth, people who don't know enough about typography can still make the CV look like a train plowed through the it. Good luck in your search!

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+1 for a great answer. "Makes you wonder if people actually use script and decorative type for resumes.": Actually, I have seen this in the past. I've just put them aside and went for the ones I can actually read. – Philip Regan Mar 31 '11 at 13:10
Garamond is very elegant – horatio Mar 31 '11 at 21:40

I agree with the ideas above. Serif faces are easier to read in large text blocks than sans-serif faces (I think that's why the serifs are there, right?)...

  • Serifs (at least for the body - use Sans-serifs for your headings, if you like)
  • Proper leading, kerning
  • Proper font sizes (larger/bolder heads, etc.)

I think if you look at your CV/Resume as a professional document, not a portfolio piece, you'll fair well.

NO font makes you a good designer/professional. It's displaying proper use (and restraint), that may give you that extra edge.

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Serif faces aren't necessarily easier to read than serif. It's a common belief. Some studies hint at it. Others hint at no correlation. Serifs originated from stone carving and were a remnant of the mechanical needs of the stone carver. – DA01 May 8 '12 at 3:34

I also agree, unsurprisingly! I was intrigued in what the study you quoted had to say until I actually saw what the other fonts were. It'd be better to compare things like Helvetica, Arial, Times New Roman, Calibri, and Garamond.

Anyway, in answer to your question, I would say to simply do the most unoriginal and (frankly) boring thing possible. If in doubt, use the common Helvetica for titles and then Times for the body. Avoid the horrible decorative or art-y fonts at all costs.

Use a point size of 11-14 for the body, depending on how much space you've got, and 22-26 for headers.

I personally use Hoefler Text (pictured below) for most formal things. I tend to follow the 'fraction rule' of using a double size for headers and one-and-a-half size for intermediates. That means, if you have size 12 as the body, then header(s) get size 24. Gaps between sections and subheadings are size 18. It tends to work well.

Hoefler Text Sample

You could use bold text for marker headers:
Name: John Smith
DOB: 1 Apr 2000

If you can, keep things aligned! (Please excuse my poor attempt to align the above example.)

The other thing to look out for is the margin lengths. Generally it's easiest to use the word processor's (MS Word, Pages, whatever) default, but make sure that if you do increase/decrease the margins, keep it equal! A lopsided CV isn't very appealing.

Also, don't use Comic Sans MS.

Other than that, there's not much else to say. Enjoy yourself!

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There are no right fonts. But there are wrong fonts. Times New Roman is a little cliche and only really works if your resume is consistent with serif fonts (and preferably consistent with Times New Roman). It looks out of place when applying for a marketing, sales, creative job or a job at a startup.

That said, don't try and standout with your font. Try and standout with your accomplishments. The template of the resume (font and format) must be so it makes reading familiar and easy, so someone can learn about you. If your font gets noticed, chances are, its not a good thing.

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