You’ve spent hours perfecting every last word of your cover letter. You’re applying to your dream job, after all – you can’t leave anything to chance, least of all making an unfortunate typo (public relations is very different than pubic relations, of course) or silly grammatical error. Once the words are perfect, though, it’s time to work on the presentation. That means choosing the right font, in the right size, to make your letter easy to read and present a professional, polished image.
The most important consideration when choosing a font is readability. If the font is too swirly, ornate or embellished, it’s not going to be easy to read. Your best bet, then, is to choose a font that is simple and readable, like Times New Roman or Arial. Calibri, Garamond, Georgia and Minion are also attractive and simple fonts that are appropriate for a cover letter. And avoid anything that could be viewed as cutesy or unprofessional; just because you can change your bullets into hearts or cupcakes doesn’t mean that you should.
When it comes to fonts one thing is true: size matters. That might not be true in other areas of life, but the size of the letters on the page is important when you’re trying to make a good impression. If a potential employer has to pull out a magnifying glass to see the words on the page, you’ve made them too small. The standard practice is to use a 10- or 12-point font; any smaller, and the type will be hard to see.
So now you’re probably thinking “Great. I write this fabulous letter, and I have to use a boring typeface.” While it's true that Times New Roman isn’t the most exciting font out there, it is the standard. If you are applying for a job in a conservative field, like banking or law, stick with what works. If you’re applying for a job in a more creative field, though, you have a little more leeway when it comes to font selection. In fact, in some fields, like graphic design, your font choice could serve as the first indication of your design sensibilities. Remember to keep it readable, but get a little creative with fonts, by perhaps using something with a bit more flair for your name.
Remember that when you submit resumes and cover letters electronically, your fancy fonts and formatting will likely be lost. In fact, if you are e-mailing your cover letter, the e-mail program might change an unsupported font into gibberish, or, if the recipient does not have the font installed on her computer, it won’t display or print properly. For that reason, stick with common fonts that most everyone has, and save the fun lettering for your personal correspondence or craft projects.
An adjunct instructor at Central Maine Community College, Kristen Hamlin is also a freelance writer on topics including lifestyle, education, and business. She is the author of Graduate! Everything You Need to Succeed After College (Capital Books), and her work has appeared in Lewiston Auburn Magazine, Young Money, USA Today and a variety of online outlets. She has a B.A. in Communication from Stonehill College, and a Master of Liberal Studies in Creative Writing from the University of Denver.