How To Read a Reference Letter

As you build your empire you will be increasing your headcount. You need to get quality headcount in order to maximise the marginal added value to your career. Here are some handy hints on how to interpret reference letters for candidates you may consider:

Reference Letter LanguageActual Meaning
I have known the candidate since…I owe the candidate’s supervisor a favour, and so am writing this based on the information in the SMS message sent by the supervisor
The candidate is well known in the field.I rejected one his papers from a conference
The candidate is a real team playerHe relies on others to do the work
The candidate has made significant individual contributionsNobody else in team will work with him
He is “good”I can not think of anything else to say; he has done nothing.
He has a deep knowledge…He is incredibly narrow and knows nothing outside of his field
Amongst the best 25% of students I have ever supervisedI have had crappy students
Has written a surprising number of papersSurprising because each had very little to say