I’m a manager who’s in the process of hiring someone for an entry-level position at my company. One of the things that I personally like to pay attention to is the font applicants choose for their resume. I know it’s not important; obviously education and previous work experience are far more critical considerations. Still, I like to try to imagine what it might say about the candidate’s personality, and whether or not they’ll be a good fit for our organization’s culture. Thoughts? – Name withheld
Honestly, I wouldn’t put too much stock in this. It strikes me that you’re basically trying to read the tea leaves here.
I do, however, understand the temptation.
Hiring the right person for the right job is an intimidating prospect, even for the most seasoned manager. Choose wisely, and you will have gained an organizational asset that may be with you for years, perhaps even decades. But choose poorly and you’ll be left to “manage” your mistake (perhaps making the ensuing years feel like decades). Even if you’re lucky enough to be rid of them quickly, the time-consuming and costly process of hiring someone will have to be repeated all over again.
So much seems to be riding on this one decision – and yet all the information you have to work with (at least initially) is that which fits on one side of an 8×10 sheet of paper.
No wonder you’re trying to wring every last drop of insight from it that you can.
However, unless someone hands you a CV that’s been scribbled out in crayon (although depending on the color…), I doubt the font they choose is telling you anything truly useful, much less reveals something about the essence of the candidate’s emotional self.
Keep in mind too that it may not even have been their choice to begin with.
These days, it’s not unusual for candidates to retain the services of a career coach or headhunter—particularly the more experienced job-seeker looking for a management or more professional-level position. This consultant will likely advise them in their selection of an appropriate font. For those new to the job market seeking an entry-level position like the one you offer, it wouldn’t surprise me if they simply chose a professional-looking font from whatever “How to Prepare Your Resume”-book they happened to pick up when they began their search. And for the harried job seeker, who is short on both time and resources, I’d understand if they took a friend’s or colleague’s resume that they happened to like, and cut-and-paste their own info into that file. The font itself may therefore be what it is by default.
So my advice to you?
Focus on the usual criteria: Education, background, and previous work experience, if relevant. Content over style, in other words. Your interviews are going to tell you a lot more about how well an applicant may or may not fit in with your company’s culture anyway.
I also strongly encourage you to involve as many people in the screening, interviewing, and hiring process as you can.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The only tried and true method for making critical organizational decisions such as this is to tap into the “wisdom of crowds,” to the extent that’s possible. So when you’re done sifting through that pile of resumes yourself, pass it on to one or more of your colleagues, if you haven’t already. Perhaps they’ll catch a diamond-in-the-rough that you missed, or weed out an obviously unqualified candidate who you assessed too forgivingly.
Finally, take some of the pressure off yourself, if that’s what you’re feeling. There really is no way to predict with any degree of certainty whether someone is going to work out or not.
But that’s not your fault. Nor is it because of anything you might fail to do.
No – the single most critical determinate of an employee’s on-the-job performance is—and always will be—how that person is being managed. There’s just no getting around this.
So pay more attention to whoever you hire after you hire them, as opposed to investing too deeply in the process you’re involved in now.
 Suroweicki, James. The Wisdom of Crowds. 2004 (Anchor Books).
 Clifton, J. & Harter, J. It’s the Manager. 2019 (Gallup Press), p. 12.