Am I off my rocker on this? I've never seen a bad letter of recommendation. I've never even whiffed one that I thought was coded to reveal a weakness in the candidate.
I've hired more than a half dozen English proffies over the past 17 years at a pleasant SLAC, and I have found that the rec letters are nearly useless to me and my committees. (And, please, I know this is just from one viewpoint, so I honestly wonder what others are seeing.)
All of the candidates love teaching. They all also have rich research potential. They all are among "the top 5% of grad students this mentor has ever taught!" (They're all above average drivers, of course.)
And when we meet these people, they end up being a mix of good and bad and average candidates.
But surely my experience is limited. So, tell us about the bad rec letters you've seen.
- Peter in Pomona