Let me start by saying that I consider myself a strong friend and ally to the Java community. As some readers will know, I founded and ran a large Java Users Group (I miss you Philly) for 15 years, and much of my career was spent focused entirely on recruiting Java professionals. In one capacity or another I have probably helped thousands of Java developers get jobs, and even though I no longer focus on Java in my practice or run the JUG I will always be linked to Java.
But now we need to have a talk.
I read a lot of resumes. I get them from applicants who apply to jobs that I have posted. I get them from (mostly) junior people on Reddit where I mod a career questions subreddit /r/cscareerquestions. And I get them from my Resume Raiders clients who are looking for me to either review or rewrite their resume for them.
So although my data is anecdotal, I have a lot of it — about 18 years' worth to be exact.
When I get resumes from Java professionals, I'd estimate that on average they are 1.5-2x as long as resumes from other developers of similar career lengths.
One could think it might have something to do with age. Java has been popular for a long time now, so the age of the average Java developer might be higher than say those doing Ruby or Python work. Anecdotally, I don't think this is it, as I see relatively shorter resumes from highly experienced candidates that don't use Java.
Some might think it could have a cultural element. The Java community in the US may have a larger contingent of international talent than other language communities, and other countries have different resume/CV styles and acceptable lengths. Java resumes from those who were born overseas tend to be noticeably longer than their US-born counterparts, but I also see non-Java resumes from foreign-born developers that tend to be shorter than the Java devs.
Do Java devs move around more than those in other language camps, and more jobs results in longer resumes? Generally speaking, I don't think so, and in many cases the opposite may be true, with long tenures being somewhat common for Java devs at large firms. Workers on visas under contract do tend to get moved frequently between projects all across the US, and this can account for length for those in this type of work.
One might surmise that the lengths could be related to the vast number of tools and technologies available over the years in the Java ecosystem. Listing an abundance of frameworks, app servers, IDE's, testing tools, etc. that one has used over the years could require a good deal of real estate, and those who are writing their resume may be a bit liberal in their skills listing if they are aware of ATS products (robot readers) that scan and score the resume for keywords. It's true that the skills section of the average Java dev resume is almost always a couple of lines longer than those from other language camps, but the skills section is a rather small percentage of the overall document.
I'm not going to make the link between Java being verbose and Java resumes being verbose. But perhaps I just did.
Why Does it Matter?
I've written a ton of material about resumes, and resume length raises a few major concerns.
Communication skills: Efficient word usage is a desirable trait for an employee who will be potentially writing documentation (not to mention code) to be consumed by other employees. Unnecessarily verbose resumes don't reflect strong communication skills.
Signal vs. noise: There are elements of every resume that account for signal (the reasons that a hiring company will hire you) and then there is noise (anything else). A long resume tends to make it hard for readers to find the signal in a sea of noise.
Intimidation: Hand a recruiter a resume and say "This one is only five sentences", and the recruiter will read every word. Hand a recruiter a 20-page resume, and the recruiter will immediately start trying to look for reasons to stop reading. Even a minor indication that this candidate isn't a perfect fit could be used as an excuse to hit delete and move on.
Unfortunately, I don't feel I have a good answer to explain this one. I'd be happy to hear from anyone who feels they might. In the meantime, if you are one of those with a resume over three pages, try to optimize what you have. Your inclusion of every minute detail is not helping the reader.