Be very careful what font you use when applying for a job, says expert

One US expert suggested that for CVs, Times New Roman was only marginally better than Comic Sans – a font so bad it spawned a campaign to have it banned

Adam Lusher
Tuesday 28 April 2015 21:25 BST

The fraught business of finding a new job just got even more complex. Times New Roman, the font previously recommended by recruiters as the safe, sensible choice to use in a job application, was branded the CV equivalent of attending an interview in jogging bottoms.

One US expert consulted by the Bloomberg business news agency suggested that for CVs, Times New Roman was only marginally better than Comic Sans – a font criticised as being so bad that it spawned a campaign to have it banned.

Brian Hoff, the creative director of Brian Hoff Design, claimed that Times New Roman, used as a standard typeface in many business communications, suggested that anyone who used it in their CV wasn’t really bothering. “It is telegraphing that you didn’t put any thought into the typeface that you selected,” he said. “It’s like putting on sweatpants.”

This put Times New Roman close to Comic Sans, which Mr Hoff advised should never appear on a CV “unless you are applying to clown college”.

On this side of the Atlantic, however, Times New Roman seems to be retaining its status as a solid, dependable sort of font – at least if you want to be an accountant.

Catherine Maskell, of the Reed recruitment agency, said: “I don’t think it suggests lack of effort. It gives quite a serious, traditional impression. It reminds me of The Times newspaper. It would suit more traditional, factual-based roles, like accountancy.”

If you fancy something more creative, though, you might want to consider ditching the popular typeface. “It is a bit dated. A bit typewriter-y,” said Elizabeth Woodforde, of Page Group, another recruitment agency. “If you are thinking [about] the digital age, there are cleaner, crisper and clearer fonts out there.” There was, at least, some sort of reassuring consensus, with British and US experts saying that Helvetica was among the best fonts. Mr Hoff said: “Helvetica is so no-fuss. It feels professional, light-hearted, honest.”

Ms Woodforde agreed: “For a CV, Helvetica is up there without a doubt: clean, crisp and clear.”

But even with Helvetica, unanimous approval is not guaranteed. Bruno Maag, of London type studio Dalton Maag, once compared the font to a particularly bad ice cream, claiming it was like “a cheap, nasty, supermarket brand made of water, substitutes and vegetable fats. The texture is wrong and it leaves a little bit of a funny aftertaste”.

Amid all the contradictory opinions, Ms Woodforde offered some comfort to confused job-seekers: good recruiters look past any font to read a CV “although if it is Comic Sans, they would probably strongly advise the candidate to tone it down a bit”.

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