Times New Roman? Don’t bother applying
An American expert says that using some of the most common fonts on a CV reflects poorly on job applicants. Will a seemingly minor detail make any difference to your career chances?
Its name brings together a 230-year-old newspaper and an empire which ruled most of the known world for centuries. It’s so well-established that Microsoft Word assumes that you want to use it without asking you. But design experts in the United States say that using the Times New Roman font may damage your chances of getting a job.
Brian Hoff, a graphic designer who was one of three experts interviewed for Bloomberg magazine’s business pages, says that using the default font is ‘like putting on sweatpants’. Although British recruiters are divided on the subject, Hoff says: ‘It’s telegraphing that you didn’t put any thought into the typeface that you selected.’
Bloomberg’s interviewees were tasked with providing job applicants with advice on which fonts they should use on their CVs. Helvetica, which Hoff called ‘professional, light-hearted, honest’, was their clearest recommendation. But Courier (’don’t pretend you have a typewriter’), joined-up fonts like Zapfino (which are for ‘your wedding invite’) and particularly Comic Sans (the subject of a hate campaign, not to be used ‘unless you are applying to clown college’) came out unfavourably. And, they say, it’s worth considering the nature of the job you’re applying for before judging how appropriate your font might be.
Until relatively recently, designing a font required carefully carving letters in to a large slab of metal in a workshop called a foundry, at great effort and cost. But inventions such as Claude Garamond’s typeface which did not imitate handwriting (and is widely used today) in the 16th century, roman and italic lettering and sans serif fonts helped to make typography more diverse. But recent advances in computer programming have made the process of designing a font far easier and given people a vast range of choice. Job applications which use default fonts may therefore seem to be failing to engage with the possibilities offered by modern technology.
Font of all wisdom?
What a waste of time, you might think. It’s laughable that something so trivial could have any impact. No font is going to cover over whether or not you’ve got the things that matter — the skills, experience and level of interest in a role. Just write the CV however you feel comfortable.
But maybe any advantage helps, particularly in an increasingly competitive job market. Appearances matter; if you turned up to an interview scruffily or inappropriately dressed, it would count against you. Your CV is your first chance to impress someone who might end up paying you a lot of money, so why not put in a little extra effort? Even if it only has a subliminal impact on the recruiter, it might make the difference.
- Which fonts do you think are most or least appropriate for a CV? Why?
- Is it legitimate to judge someone on the basis of something apparently so trivial?
- Study some fonts on fontsquirrel.com. Decide which you would or wouldn’t use on a CV. If possible, consider which industry you’d like to work in when completing this task.
- Think of three different pieces of writing, drawing or speaking which you have done for different reasons. How has the purpose of what you’ve done influenced the way in which you presented it? Write a paragraph about each piece.
Some People Say...
“In business, presentation is everything”
What do you think?
Q & A
- So which font should I use then?
- There’s no right answer to that — it depends on the industry you want to work in. In most cases you will probably want something that looks fairly serious, but most importantly it needs to be easy to read.
- How does it vary between jobs?
- The way you present your CV says something about you: so using a font which everyone else uses, for example, may be off-putting when you are applying for a role which requires extensive IT or design skills. Bloomberg’s experts recommend an ‘upscale’ font such as Didot for applications to the fashion industry. In some creative industries, a sans-serif font may be more appropriate.
- Does it really matter?
- It’s peripheral, so it will only make a difference if you’re the sort of person they’d be interested in anyway.
- British recruiters are divided
- Catherine Maskell, from Reed, disagrees with Hoff on Times New Roman: ‘It gives quite a serious, traditional impression. It reminds me of The Times newspaper. It would suit more traditional, factual-based roles, like accountancy.’ But Elizabeth Woodforde, of Page Group, calls it ‘a bit dated, a bit typerwriter-y’. Serif fonts are less regularly used in the UK than in the US.
- A hate campaign
- There has been a campaign to ban Comic Sans, which some consider to be childish and attention-seeking. See the BBC link for more detail of why people find it so offensive.
- Sans serif fonts
- Serifs, which are similar to small tails on the edges of letters, are part of some fonts, which are usually considered more formal as a result. Times New Roman and Garamond are examples of serif fonts, whereas Tahoma is a sans serif font. The serifs are believed to help the human eye to follow letters across the page — a similar impact to that made by joining up letters in handwriting. An English foundry first produced a sans serif font in 1816.