These simple CV details could make or break your application.

We all know that presentation is key for a good CV – a recruiter will start making judgements about you as soon as they glance at your document, before they've even read a word. Your job is to make it as easy as possible for them to evaluate your CV, and font plays a part in that. If an HR manager gives up because the text is too small, the words are too condensed on the page or you've chosen a hard-to-read typeface, you've fallen at the first hurdle.

If you want to figure out the best font and font size to use on your CV, we're here to guide you.

What is the best font to use for a CV?

To start, always choose a font that is widely available. You need something that can be read by most software, so being too original isn't going to help you here.

There are a few fonts that work particularly well on a CV. We advise Calibri, Arial, Verdana, Trebuchet MS and Times New Roman, among others shown in the graphic below. They're easy to read and accurately interpreted by applicant tracking systems. Choose the wrong font and the ATS could end up filling your CV with those little boxes (▯) that we've all seen when software tries to read incompatible text.

When you've finally chosen a font, stick to it. Outside of differentiating headers from other text, more than one font on a CV can look decidedly unprofessional.

What fonts should you avoid on your CV?

Comic Sans has a terrible (if slightly undeserved) reputation and should certainly not be used on any self-respecting CV. The only possible exception to this would be if you're aiming to work with small children, but even then it's inadvisable ‒ your CV should be aimed at the adults reviewing it.

Any font that looks fun, bubbly or themed, such as Jokerman, Cavolini and Old English, should be avoided as well, as should cursive fonts such as Freestyle Script and Brush Script. They don't look professional and are difficult to read.

What is the difference between serif and sans serif fonts?

The first decision you need to make is whether to use a serif or sans serif font. To clarify, a serif font has small decorative flourishes on its letters, whereas a sans-serif font doesn't. 

You can use either, but there are things to keep in mind about each style. Sans serif fonts are considered to be easier to read on a screen, which is where most people will first encounter your CV. They also ensure that the CV looks clean, contemporary and uncluttered.

However, if there's a high chance of your CV being printed (or if you're planning to print it yourself to hand over in person), a serif font may be the better choice. They can look dated, but they're easier to read on paper and are generally preferred by the more traditional industries.

What is the best font size to use for a CV? 

Now that you've decided on your font, you need to choose which point size to use. Too large and you risk looking childish with little to say, but too small and you risk making the CV too difficult to read and bother with. We recommend using a 10–12-point font. This will look professional and is large enough to read easily but small enough to ensure you can include everything you need to say.

Is a 10-point font too small for a CV?

A 10-point font is ideal for most CVs. If you feel like you need to use a smaller font size in order to cram everything in, you probably need to be more ruthless with your editing. Consider narrowing the margins, summarising your earlier career more succinctly or removing details that are irrelevant to your current career objective. That will help you keep your CV within the target one to two pages whilst remaining readable with an appropriate font size.

Is a 12 point-font too large for a CV?

A 12-point font is also perfectly acceptable – you may even want to use a larger font for your section headings. However, don't let the main body of text go any larger than 12 points. If you need to use something larger to fill the space, you've probably not included enough information to sell yourself adequately. Rather than increasing the font size, try giving more detail on your responsibilities and achievements or including voluntary work and skills gained from hobbies.

Can I use bold, italics or underlines?

It's absolutely fine to use bold and italics, but do so sparingly. Whilst they're not appropriate for large chunks of text, you can use them for headers, to highlight key information and to quote, for example, titles of publications. Underlined text is not unheard of, but it tends to be associated with weblinks these days and is therefore best avoided if possible.

Key points

The key points to consider when choosing the best font for your CV are:

  • Do I look professional and authoritative?

  • Is it easy for a recruiter to read and pick out critical information?

  • Will my CV be accurately read by an applicant tracking system?

Ask yourself these questions as you go about writing your CV. Then, duplicate the typeface, point size and style on your cover letter to present a cohesive personal brand, and you're good to go! 

Our TopCV expert writers know how a CV should look. Click here to learn about our professional CV rewrites.

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