Originally published March 31, 2002
I recently wrote a reference letter for someone I supervise. When writing one of these, it can be somewhat difficult to know what to say in the letter. You want to write a good letter (unless you don’t like the person who the letter is for, in which case they were stupid to ask you) so the person gets what they are applying for, but you don’t want to go overboard and sound ridiculous.
Without further ado, here are some commonly used terms for reference letters, and what they really mean. This can also be used as a resource to translate a reference letter so you can know what your supervisor has written about you.
|What the letter says||What it means|
|Hardworking||Not as lazy as coworkers|
|Eager to advance||Will stab you in the back|
|Is a team player||Is a doormat|
|Lives life to the fullest||Comes in drunk three times a week|
|Easy going||Total slacker|
|Has an intense personality||Is psychotic|
|Is not intimidated by conflict||Picks fights|
|Works well under a deadline||Always procrastinates|
|Handles pressure well||Knows when to shut up|
|Doesn’t handle pressure well||Subscribes to Soldier of Fortune|
|Dedicated||Has no aspirations for better job|
|Does his best work independently||No one gets along with him|