please stop with the tiny font!

I have spent much of today straining to read the tiny font on resumes and cover letters. I’m talking 9-point in some cases. Yes, yes, perhaps I’m just getting old and can no longer see very well, but 9-point is way too small. Haven’t we agreed as a society that 11-point is a minimum?

It makes me think of how in school, some people would use larger fonts and wider margins in order to produce the full 10 (or whatever) pages that had been assigned.*  I think this is the opposite of that — people are shrinking their fonts to a tiny size because they think their resume can’t be longer than a page.

Unless you are recently out of your school, your resume can be two pages. Really. I don’t want to read resumes with a monocle.

* I also have a rant about why page minimums in school are a bad idea, but I’ll spare you that.

{ 31 comments… read them below }

  1. BeatnikBetty*

    THANK YOU for your comment about 2 page resumes. I am so sick of hearing that I need to get it down to 1 page or it will get thrown away. I have a real professional history that cannot fit onto 1 page so this has been incredibly obnoxious for me to go through with the old-fashioned "one page or it goes into the trash" rule hanging over my head.

  2. Anonymous*

    Recently a resume pro told me to go to 10 point font. I think I will stick with 11. *I* still need to be able to read it too, you know!

  3. An HR Person*

    You're spot on AAM.

    Having a two page resume will not get your resume thrown out. Having a resume that's one page but in size 9 font will. I wish everyone who applied for positions at my job read your blog.

  4. Anonymous*

    Back when we wrote with typewriters, 10 and 12 point were the font. I agree 9-point is too small, but when did 11 become the minimum?

  5. Waldo*

    I'm sorry, but 10-point is what I consider standard. (Agree to disagree again?)

    Most apps have a Zoom setting that doesn't impact the page content. Also (assuming MS Word or OpenOffice Writer), the different page layouts (Reading Mode vs Print Mode vs so-on) will impact how much extraneous non-document stuff is displayed.

    Personally, I use 13 point section headers and 9 point text just to fit what I feel is the most relevant content in two pages!

  6. Anonymous*

    My former job involved corresponding with Medicare enrollees. CMS requires that insurance companies use a 12 point (minimum) font with everything sent to Medicare patients.
    I personally don't go below 11 on my resume or cover letter, perhaps because my own eyes are aging…

  7. Evil HR Lady*

    So, as I was reading this post, I hit some button on my keyboard and all of a sudden everything shrunk (shrank?) down into this tiny font.


    Like, you're controlling the internet.

  8. Kimberlee Stiens*

    OK, so here's my question. My resume is quite jazzy, and all in at least 12 point, but its about two pages. There is tons of white space, but I feel that makes it easier to find what you're looking for, and like I said, my template is super jazzy (without, I like to think, being unprofessional). Will employers look at my resume and think "Wow, this could totally fit on one page, but she instead chooses to make it two" and think ill of me?

  9. Anonymous*

    Yup, things are different in the UK. In the US we're taught we'll be homeless and destitute if we use more than one page.

  10. Anonymous*

    I'm in the UK so things might be different here, but I was taught that a resume should be 2 pages at 10-12 point font unless you're just out of school when you can just use one page.

  11. Charles*

    Tiny font on resumes? Like no "white space." No one ever does that, do they?

    Seriously, though, I can understand why people try to fit everything on one page. I know that I do. However, my point size is larger than 9!

    I have been burnt by recruiters losing the first (or second) page. At least one job told me that I was qualified; but, because I haven't worked since 2002 they would go with another candidate. Yep, 2002, that's the date of my last job ON THE SECOND PAGE! The numbskull wasn't even looking at Page 1 so he wasn't seeing my more recent work experience and everything else on Page 1. This happened despite my having both pages marked as Page 1 of 2 and Page 2 of 2. He wasn't interested in me re-sending him a completed version.

    Recruiters and hiring managers who misplace a job seeker's resume, or part of it, are less likely to look for it and more likely to go to the next resume. That's a fact; and it is one reason (right or wrong) that "they" say to limit your resume to one page.

    My 2-page resume was cleaner looking with more white space (white space – that concept that allows for note taking); but after getting burnt a few times I "forced" everything onto one page.

    It really feels like a "no win" situation for the job seeker.

  12. Joshua*

    Honestly, I never thought about it, I used whatever font was preset in the Word Template. For the last five years, my company has an online posting system for jobs, and you need to copy/paste your resume (as opposed to attaching it), and none of the formatting carries over, so all the font size is the same anyway, so I haven't even thought about font size in awhile.

    In high school and college, they told use to use 10 font, which is what I assumed would be the resume font size if I were ever asked.

  13. ImpassionedPlatypi*

    Aww, but monocles are AWESOME! And I bet you look really cute wearing one. ;-)

    Seriously though, I'd say 10pt is minimum for a hard copy. For the electronic copy I don't see why you (you being the hiring manager or recruiter or whatever) couldn't just select it all, change the size and then read it or print it. Especially when you know that there are tons and tons of temp agency recruiters and companies offering "resume help" all saying that if you can fit your resume on one page you really should. I don't think it takes that much effort on the part of the more sane people doing hiring to just increase the font size before they print it out.

  14. Pierre Corneille*

    I know it strays from this blog's orientation, but I'd like to hear your rant about why page minimums are a bad idea. (I have been an adjunct instructor and have had very mixed feelings about minimum page requirements.)

  15. Ask a Manager*

    Pierre, I was secretly hoping someone would ask.

    So here's my thinking on page-minimums for papers assigned in school: They prepare you all wrong for the work world, by emphasizing length over substance and conciseness.

    In the work world, I want writers who can communicate the substance of their ideas in a compelling and SHORT way. Most recent grads have been taught to write long (and in too many cases, in a rather bloviated way), and they have to be retrained once they start working.

    I've always thought that if I were a teacher or professor, I'd assign papers in two steps: the first assignment, as normal, and then part two, where I'd hand the papers back to them and say, "Now go make those same points just as effectively in half the space."

    (I do realize that not all college writing is geared toward preparing students for industry, but when it is, I think this is the way to go.)

  16. Anonymous*

    Where does this one-page only attitude come from? I don't care if a resume I'm reviewing is one page or 5 pages, as long as the information contained in it is concise and gives me the information I need to make a determination as to whether I want to continue with this applicant or not.

    Personally, I think a one-page resume is a bit sparse and tends to turn me off because it doesn’t look like the individual has any work experience, education, or a combination of both. IMO, two-page resumes should be the standard unless you really don’t have any work experience or education. Scrolling down or flipping to another page isn’t a big deal.

  17. Anonymous*

    I've never given any thought to font size on resumes, or anything else, fir that matter. The reason: all of these "shoulds" – you *should do this, you *should do that – are oppressive, which is all too typical of the corporate business environment – stifling individuality.

  18. Ursula*

    I went back to college after many years away and dreaded the word minimums on papers. I soon learned to simply ask the professors how strongly they felt about them – few really required them. My senior project was supposed to be 25 pages and it turned out to be 14 or 15. I received a 4.0, along with kudos for my ability to write concisely and effectively. I now have that on my resume (which is 2 pages).

  19. Anonymous*

    AAM, I am in total agreement with your thing on page minimums — especially because a lot of college and grad school work then assigns a page MAXIMUM. So after years of training yourself to inflate a paper and fill it with BS, you're told to cut the BS, and by then you've forgotten how to call a spade a spade…

  20. Violet*

    Eek. Now I'm worried about my resume. The fonts are all 12pt+, but the format's a bit… unconventional (two columns). It's actually very concise, and pretty, I think, I just worry how it'll fare out in the Actual Business World. Does anyone know of a resume critique site, or something?

  21. Violet*

    And yes, page minimums are annoying beyond all belief. Outside of very specific exercises (freewrite 2 pages, say), I think they're just used as a proxy for, “put this much effort into this” and a terrible one, at that. Being able to write concise prose is an immensely useful skill for basically everyone who isn't Faulkner.

  22. Anonymous*

    Not that this is a blog about term papers–but IMO minimum length is really a proxy for "depth and scope" of the assignment. A seasoned writer will naturally write a paper that makes its case in an appropriate length. Beginning writers (which are most college students in at least the first few years) often need more clues so they get enough detail and support to be convincing (or not get repetative or wander off topic . . . ).

  23. Jenn*

    This is not an excuse for using a tiny font, but in the theatre industry one page resumes are standard, at least in my experience. Actors put their headshot on one side of the page and their resume on the other side. I'm not sure why this bleeds over into technical theatre, but it seems to happen a lot.

  24. Anonymous*

    On another related topic – please don't use blocks of color in your resume. I am printing them out on a b&w printer, and while black on aqua looks great screen wise, black on grey can be hard to read.

  25. Anonymous*

    That’s very interesting because my resume is 3 1/2 pages and I have only been out of school for a few years but did alot while in school and incorporated this in my experience section without being misleading. My font is 11 point and still over 3 pages… My resume looks pretty rocking and I think the number of pages is consistent with my 15 years experience outside of school and 19 years experience (7 years post highschool) inside school. Just IMHO, but to each their own. Lastly fomat in PDF so that you do not lose formatting or have to reformat for online postings if given the option to add as attachment or upload instead copy/paste.

  26. Student*

    I don’t see why, with some things of this nature, it isn’t just included as a note in the job posting. Your requirement of 11 point font, minimum, is perfectly reasonable. But would it kill you to just say that’s what you want, especially if you run into the problem frequently? If you don’t ask, you never get what you want.

    Also – you can enlarge the document if it’s difficult to read. I do it all the time. If you are looking at anything on a computer, there is always a way to make the font bigger on your screen. Always! Even that font on your desktop icons can be enlarged. As a nerd, it always breaks my heart to see someone set their resolution to something terrible just because “it makes the font bigger” because you’re sacrificing overall quality just because you don’t want to change an individual setting somewhere. For Word, it’s under the View tab, and you just hit the zoom button. On a Firefox web browser, if you want bigger fonts, you hold the control button and then scroll your mouse wheel for a temporary fix.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s not a requirement. It’s a suggestion. I’m not going to run a list of requirements about resume formatting when I’m hiring; I’m going to hope that people apply some common sense to it.

  27. Anon*

    Never write down anything that you yourself cannot see with your own naked eye.

    I had a class where I allowed the students to use a note card. Both sides as much information as they wanted … but they could only use the note cards for a cheat sheet.

    One woman impressed me deeply. She wrote so tiny that she had nearly three chapters on one note card. The trouble is … she herself couldn’t see it. I nearly died laughing. Yeah, I know! Not professional at all but I never expected to see a student or anyone in general pull that.

    I gave her a magnifying glass (It’s a science class so we had that lying around somewhere) and told her, “I think you would do better to just forget the note card you made and just rely on memory.”

    She didn’t forget the note card and relied on it too much for my taste … especially since she needed a device to help her see what she wrote.

    So any student that needs help with their resume I always tell them. Make sure you don’t use a font that you have too much trouble seeing when trying to keep that resume to one page.

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