I heard from several sources that European recommendation letters for postdoc positions tend to be minimalist and understated, while the American ones are way more enthusiastic. I have two questions about this phenomenon:
- Is this cultural difference taken into account by members of postdoctoral search committees in high-ranked American universities?
The second question is more personal:
- I'm a European grad student aiming at a postdoc position in an American university. I'm currently gathering my recommendation letters, and I'm supposed to get one from one of the leading figures in my field. He knows my work well, and I believe he has a good opinion of me. On the other hand, being familiar with his style of expression, he will never write one of those "omg he is the best researcher ever" letters that top American universities expect to see (he won't write it even for someone who is actually the best researcher ever). So the question is: Should I use his letter in my application or am I risking that the search committee will translate the adjective "good" (which is a very significant compliment considering the letter writer) to "horrible"?
ps. For whatever it's worth, I work in pure mathematics.