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Monday, August 31, 2009

does the font on your resume matter? what if it's Comic Sans?

A reader writes:

A friend of mine has asked me to critique his paper resume and cover letter.

Both documents used Comic Sans font. I suggested he use something more businesslike, such as Arial, but he's sold on Comic Sans.

To me, Comic Sans sends the implicit message "I think this is a joke" or, at least, looks too casual. Am I getting too picky?

Ugh, Comic Sans. For those who don't know it, Comic Sans looks like this.

It's not a professional font. It was designed to imitate comic book lettering. It's informal. It's despised by graphic designers. There's a movement to ban it.

Am I going to disregard an otherwise great candidate over it? No. Is it going to mildly annoy me? Yes. Do you want to be mildly annoying hiring managers by using an unprofessional font on your resume and making them wonder why you don't know it's not professional? No. Does it potentially contribute to an overall impression of you as unprofessional? Yes.

The test of a good resume font is one that doesn't make the reader think about what font you used. Comic Sans fails that test.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am totally on board with the Ban Comic Sans movement. I can't stand when I see it used in a professional setting. In most cases I would not pass on an otherwise qualified candidate, but their poor judgement would be noted. However, if they were applying for a designer position, or one where they would be in charge of sending out correspondece without oversight I would pass on them in a hearbeat.

Abby said...

I think Comic Sans is completely unprofessional. If I had two candidates who were equal in other ways, I might eliminate someone just because he used this font. If the resume is on the margin, this would cause it to go in the reject pile. At the very least I would have a conversation on the first day, I would have firm conversation about never using this in the workplace. And, it would cause me to preview everything they did until I was sure that they would not use it. I think it is completely unprofessional.

Lewis, AKA Seattle Interview Coach said...

Choosing funky fonts is not where one should demonstrate their impact. Instead, he or she should show impact where it counts. For example, a graphic designer can demonstrate impact and enthusiasm by creating a custom-designed marketing piece for the prospective employer.

Anonymous said...

Well, it's better than papyrus!

HRD said...

Comic Sans is horrible. Totally, totally wrong in so many ways. When I was offered my current role, the service agreement was sent to me in Comic Sans. Its hard to take restrictive covenants seriously when they are in such a stupid font. First task on joining.......

A CV is there to convey information and there are a whole world of other professional fonts available. I would seriously question a candidate using anything like this, particularly in such a quiet market.

Kerry said...

Here's the thing: This particular font provokes a big reaction in people. That's what it's widely known for--the fact that people hate it.

If I received your friend's resume, I'd wonder if he's one of those people who's always wanting to do things to get a reaction out of people, or just so completely disconnected from the internet and the people it that he really doesn't have a clue that people really, really hate Comic Sans.

Either way--not so good.

Incidentally, a lot of people also don't like Times New Roman on a resume, because it's the default font in word. There are a whole lot of people out there who think using the default shows a lack of imagination.

I usually tell people to use Ariel. It's easy to read, and it's reasonably non-controversial.

class-factotum said...

a graphic designer can demonstrate impact and enthusiasm by creating a custom-designed marketing piece for the prospective employer

Or how about showing a marketing piece one did for a previous employer and the results of said piece (sales up X% after this campaign). Why work for free?

Nagesh Belludi said...

Serif fonts are the de-facto standard for résumé text. I recommend Book Antiqua or the all too common Times New Roman. Here's a link to my article on résumé fonts:
http://www.rightattitudes.com/2006/10/31/choice-of-fonts-and-text-size-for-resumes/

Rebecca said...

In my mind, Comic Sans has a permanent association with people who write all their e-mails in boldface magenta text and emphasize words ~+*like this*+~ and still send chain forwards full of animated GIFs.

Do you want to be or look like one of those people? No? Then don't write in Comic Sans.

Sharlyn Lauby said...

The goal of a resume is to be interesting enough on paper to get an interview. Therefore, the font you use should be driven by who will be ultimately reading the resume.

That being said, the question about Comic Sans is simple - are you sending your resume to a Comic Sans kind of company? Or are they more of a Times New Roman organization?

BossLady said...

Yes, Comic Sans for a resume or any other professional document or correspondence for that matter is bad news.

In the business world, the typeface you chose becomes part of the communication. It's akin to the outfit you wear to an interview. You MUST make sure that everything you present to a potential employer is "on message."

Do you want your resume to show up to represent you in a professional looking business suit (one of the more standard business fonts) or dressed like the green lantern?

Valerie said...

I'm not a big fan of Comic Sans. It implies a lack of professionalism and a little immaturity. (Didn't I just love that font for school projects when I was fifteen?) Might as well just throw on a bunch of clip-art while you're at it!

Resify said...

I think it goes without saying that using Comic Sans for just about anything is a bad idea. It's arguably the most abused font around.

There are ways to spruce up your resume without relying on Comic Sans, Papyrus, Impact, Brush Script, etc. Experiment with the layout, search for resume templates to use as a starting point and consult online resources to get a good head start on getting hired. Look for best practices. They're called that for a reason.

Microsoft offers a plethora of templates for their Office suite. Apple preloads Pages with several appealing solutions and Google Docs even gives you a gallery of templates to choose from. Plus, sites like Smashing Design (http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/04/01/10-handy-tips-for-web-design-cvs-and-resumes/) and JobMob (http://jobmob.co.il/blog/beautiful-resume-ideas-that-work/) offer inspiration to think outside of the box while still retaining your professional composure.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'll ask. Why is Comic Sans unprofessional? I see everyone complaining that it is, but haven't seen anyone explain why.

And please don't say it is unprofessional because it looks unprofessional. Tell me why it looks unprofessional.

Frankly, the whole "anti-Comic Sans" movement seems like a fad itself, with everyone jumping on board because no one wants to be left out. The "I'm more anti-Comic Sans than thou" attitude seems laughable to me.

Finally, the fact that so many business professionals seem willing to waste their time (hopefully not their company's time) on such an insignificant bit of trivia seems unprofessional to me.

Anonymous said...

Aesthetics are hard to rationally explain -- but everyone knows what they're seeing when they see it. Comic Sans is designed to mimic comic book lettering, and it does a good job of it. Comic books don't scream professionalism.

Personally, I'm quite fond of the Century Gothic font (I like that it mimics the way letters are written by hand without looking handwritten: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Century_Gothic), and use it for almost everything I type informally. But it's sans-serif, so I've never typed a resume or cover letter in that font. Even if it might have been okay, why take the risk?

Henning Makholm said...

Anonymous @ 1:59 PM: "Unprofessional" is probably not the best term to use. What Comic Sans is, above all, is informal. It is a typeface that screams "don't take this to seriously" and ".. but I may be wrong about this". It was designed explicitly to do this, and it does it very well.

Its original purpose was to show unsolicited on-screen hints to inexperienced computer users where it was a priority to avoid the computophobe's reflexive "argh, it says I have to do what? My computer will explode if I don't follow this prescription to the letter". Part of the response to this was to make the typeface as unassuming and non-authoritative as possible.

This has given Comic Sans a reputation as a "friendly" typeface. But it is (depending on your point of view) either a condescending or a self-deprecating kind of friendliness, and neither "condescending" nor "self-deprecating" is a subliminal message you want to send when you apply for a job.

How does this work? Most generally, it imitates handwriting. Hand-written notes are generally assumed to be less important and authoritative than typewritten or printed ones.

Many people get the feeling that computer simulated handwriting is kind of cheating too -- as if you want to cash in on the "heartfelt" connotations of handwriting without risking exposure of your actual ugly shaking hand.

But Comic Sans does not imitate just any handwriting; it looks like a particular plain and simple 90° upright handwriting -- the kind of lettershapes elementary-school students are supposed to learn. As most people grow up they develop, for better or worse, a personal rhythm and flow to their handwriting. Comic Sans seems to imitate a well-behaved 5th-grader's handwriting, or that of someone who never evolved beyond 5th grade. This helps the typeface achieve its goals of looking non-threatening, but again is a subliminal message quite different from what a job seeker wants to send.

Anonymous said...

*applauds Henning for fabulous explanation*

Right now AAM's post is #2 in the Google results for "comic sans resume."

The OP needs to tell her friend to Google the same phrase. It appears as if the entire Internet agrees with AAM and the OP.

Anonymous said...

I consider myself reasonably computer savvy and experienced as a recruiter. I didn't realize that there were such strong feelings about font types. As I look at resumes I only consider if the information is readable, organized and tells a story. The font “issue” just seems like such a non-issue it is laughable that it has generated so many comments.

Ask a Manager said...

Why is it laughable? Would you not form an impression if a resume came to you on hot pink paper? Folded into origami? How the candidate chooses to present themselves says something worth listening to.

Resify said...

I couldn't agree more. This isn't a matter of personal taste any more than coming to an interview with flip-flops is a matter of personal taste. It's a matter of what's appropriate.

Charles said...

First, let me say that using Comic Sans is not a good idea on a professional resume for an office-type job.

Second, I always stick with Times New Roman or Arial as they are the default fonts. So, every recruiter should have them on their PC. This way when I send my resume in a Word file (as requested by the recruiter) their PC will not try to substitute with a different font (and therefore different spacing) making the line and page breaks different than I had planned.

Third, While using Comic Sans (or anything other than the default fonts in Word (Times New Roman and Arial) is not a good idea I can certainly undestand why some job seekers do this. See Kerry's comment:

"There are a whole lot of people out there who think using the default shows a lack of imagination."

Not that Kerry supports this stupid idea, but I have read enough on various blogs and other sites on the web to know that there are a lot of bad recruiters out there who really do think this way.

So, yea, using Comic Sans is a not a good idea (although not in the same league as hot pink paper or wearing flip-flops to an interview - come on now!); but can you really blame some job seekers for trying something to stand out?

This job market is the worst since the days of Jimmy Carter - people are trying anything to try to get any job. Give them some slack - will ya?

P.S. I am only saying "give them some slack" so that my competition for jobs will continue to submit poor-looking resumes thereby eliminating themselves from the pool of candidates, thereby giving me an edge on the job market!

larryheard said...

I won't despise it too quickly. This would work if the position is for an artist, day care, or any position that would require a little off beat creativity. As long as the job seekers keeps up with the essential in how to write a resume, it's just fine. Just keep it clean and professional. No grammar errors, no I and me statement, and use specific figures when you can.

Michele said...

"I won't despise it too quickly. This would work if the position is for an artist, day care, or any position that would require a little off beat creativity."

I beg to differ. I am a manager at a children's museum who has evaluated scores of resumes for positions in my marketing department, which requires a lot of creativity. Using Comic Sans absolutely does NOT imply creativity, it implies that you think it's creative, which it's not. It is overused and a terrible cliche, especially when it comes to a position working with children, which is quite the opposite of creative.

I agree with others in that if you want to be creative, play with layout, or show examples of creativity.

In any case, you are applying for a job. Be professional. It's that simple. I don't care how extreme this seems, but if opening a resume and encountering Comic Sans, I would first ridicule it with the rest of my staff, and then throw it on the bottom of my pile. I am unsure if I would even read it.

Anonymous said...

sorry, it's the universal idiot font. the only way i'd call in a candidate for an interview whose resume or other documents were in comic sans is if i had literally no other qualified applicants to choose from. just the revelation that this person does not GET that it's the universal idiot font would make them unsuitable for business.

Design On Design said...

Sending a resume in comic sans is like attending an interview in a clown costume.
It should never be done - unless of course you are trying to land a job in a circus.

Anonymous said...

*sigh* I hate Comic Sans.. but not for all the reasons mentioned. I hate it because i adore it... and I am NEVER allowed to use it