In his "Sorting Resumes" article, Joel points out:
To top programmers, the most maddening thing about recruiters is their almost morbid fascination with keywords and buzzwords.
... and further explains:
The keywords section of a resume can’t be trusted much, anyway: every working programmer knows about these computer programs that filter resumes based on keywords, so they usually have a section of their resume containing every technology they have ever touched, solely to get through the filters.
Having endured the challenges of filling various developer positions in my team, I can most vividly relate to this problem, affectionately (less so these days) calling it the "Acronym Soup Phenomenon" (ASP).
Invariably, candidates feel the urge to fill their skills section with a slew of Acronyms, claiming in one fell swoop "Expert Knowledge of" areas ranging from front-end Document Authoring and User Interface Engineering, to Database Administration, Systems and Network Engineering.
While Great Developers with amazing breadth and depth of experience are out there, Joel's articles and empirical evidence teach us that odds are likely they didn't send you the pile of Acronym-ladden resumes you're looking at, assuming they even have an updated resume.
As an example, seeing "XML, XSLT, and XPath" in a candidate's Acronym Soup, I would look forward to discussing the potential merits or shortcomings of an XML Database with an XPath or XQuery API for storing and exposing syndicated XML content to applications ... Only to find them shying away from writing on the whiteboard a sample expression for a "foo" element child of a "bar" element.
AJAX is a hot acronym that shows-up in everyone's soup, and one would think most "AJAX developers" coming-in for a User Interface Engineer position would have by now read Jesse James Garrett's piece or acquired a little more knowledge and/or practical experience than copying script.aculo.us code samples.
When asking candidates about what they think AJAX is, 30% can indeed spell out what the acronym means, and one candidate so-far was able to give a slightly interesting description of the various technologies and schools of thoughts that make it up, while showing cursory knowledge of various DOM methods or the XmlHttpRequest object.
Some candidates might casually mention they "slipped" AJAX in the skills section because they're interested in learning it. That's how hot AJAX is.
As a result of the Acronym Soup Phenomenon, a resume with less buzzwords focusing on a specific discipline tied to the open position, is more likely to get attention.
When interviewing at any decent company, it's fair to expect candidates will be asked to demonstrate the appropriate level of expertise to their prospective colleagues.
Upon passing the screening process with a rich Acronym Soup, bring patience to the interview and we'll provide water, food and a sleeping bag: we'll want to know how thick it is. Not because we're sadists with nothing better to do, but rather because we run a lot of applications, both internally and customer-facing, serving a myriad of business needs on a wide variety of code bases: PHP on a LAMP stack, ASP .Net, Java/Servlet Container, Java/EJB Container, Spring+Hibernate, DWR. Breadth of experience with adequate depth won't go wasted.
And yes ... we "do" AJAX.