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We've just been through a hiring cycle and one thing that struck me was the fact that interviewees that threw every buzz word on the planet at us tended to rate the lowest.

We gave them each a simple design problem and asked them how they would approach it.

The people that sketched a simple process flow on the board were generally the ones that impressed.

The ones that leant back and then said something like "This look like a typical xxx pattern. It's an interesting paradigm and probably requires a phase-shift in your current methodology" didn't generally impress.

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A friend of mine who was an HR manager and not at all technical, claimed that he could pass for a developer in a ten minute phone screen because he'd interviewed many developers and looked at many developer résumés. When we tested him out we found that he could fake it at a high level until he was asked some deeper questions - he definitely knew the buzz words, but couldn't write a lick of code. –  Paddyslacker Sep 29 '10 at 19:47
    
Yes, there is a negative correlation! –  Mark C Sep 29 '10 at 23:05
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up vote 8 down vote accepted

I'd agree with what you seem to be suggesting: there is a correlation, and it's quite a strong correlation, and it's definitely a negative correlation (more buzzwords -> less ability).

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I've found buzzwords to be a good indication of what areas a candidate is interested in learning and not what they are completely and utterly technically proficient. That said, there are a number of people if you just say "speak to me like a developer" who totally change their approach. I think after a while they deal with so many HR, recruiters, managers, and such who haven't a clue except for those buzzwords that through the interview grind they learn to spout them out.

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+1 for statement on interest instead of proficiency –  blubb Apr 30 '11 at 7:38
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Yes, in most cases anyone that has spent any time working on something will have some details/stories to tell about actually doing the work. Generally the buzzwords to not apply to doing the actual work so the more of the conversation that is consumed by buzzwordification the less the person has to say about doing actual work, and unless they just interview poorly, that usually means the less experience they have doing actual work.

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Buzz words suck. When I interview the first think I have them do is define and explain every piece of "tech" they have listed.

Then I point out the CSS 1 / 2 and HTML / XHTML are not programming languages. For that matter neither is jQuery.

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They're not programming languages but X/HTML are markup languages. As a result, I never fault people for listing them under a languages section. –  Steve Evers Sep 29 '10 at 20:54
    
@SnOrfus: Yes, they are markup languages. I won't dismiss the guy because he listed them in the wrong place, but I make sure to point it out. –  Josh K Sep 30 '10 at 2:19
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Every specialized field has its argot and it's important to be able to use it properly. What comes with this is the ability to, however shallowly, appear to be an expert by simply bandying about the terminology. However, it usually takes only a little exchange to ascertain whether the person is cognizant of the field whose terminology they're using or not.

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+1 Just because someone knows buzz words doesn't imply anything about their knowledge of an area. They might know everything about the underlying concepts, or they might know absolutely nothing about them. –  bedwyr Sep 29 '10 at 20:16
    
@Mark C: According to my dictionary, it's a valid use and expresses my intent. –  Randall Schulz Sep 29 '10 at 23:15
    
I was going to say, "in my opinion", but how does "aware of the field" fit in the context? Bah! Never mind, I made the mistake of checking on Wiktionary via FasterFox instead of my usual m-w.com. Comment retracted. (There seems to be a reason we do not regularly use Wiktionary.) - Humbly, the English police :) –  Mark C Sep 29 '10 at 23:21
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