How To Write A Business Reference Letter (With Examples)

Chris Kolmar
By Chris Kolmar
- May. 30, 2021

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A business reference letter is also referred to as a letter of recommendation written on behalf of a professional or a business to let other people know that you believe in the quality of their work.

Think of it as a formal version of a positive Yelp review.

If you’ve been asked to write a business reference letter, you might be a little lost, wondering what they really want you to say and how to do it. That’s okay; it’s not something people do often and there’s probably nobody who’s a real expert in this because they do it all the time. These recommendation letters are pretty uncommon.

The following letter sample will help you get started and feel more confident in your letter writing abilities.

What Is a Business Reference Letter?

A business reference letter is like a formal version of a Yelp review or any 5-star online review, but there are also a lot of differences. Typically, when people write reviews online, they’re brief or full of complaints.

Obviously, that’s not going to fly for letters of reference.

When you’ve been asked to write a letter about somebody’s business, their professionalism, or them as an individual, you’ll want to be complimentary. You should focus on their work ethic, accomplishments, and how your personal experiences with them went.

Let’s imagine that you had Dave do some home repairs for you.

Dave is looking to start his own business doing this type of work and he asks you for a business recommendation letter so he can put it on his website and share it with prospective clients. Now you get the idea, but how do you write it?

Who to Ask for a Business Reference Letter

This article is primarily dedicated to individuals writing business reference letters, but it’s useful to briefly touch on who you can write a business reference letter for. You can only write a good business reference for an individual or company that you’ve had a positive professional relationship with.

This includes:

  • Former or current direct supervisors

  • Mentors who have experience with your work

  • Former professors (for recent graduates)

  • Clients you’ve done substantial work for (the main topic of this article)

  • Vendors and other businesses your business has interacted with professionally

The more recent your professional contact, the better. Whether you’re trying to convince a hiring manager, recruiter, or potential clients to believe in your business, people like to know what you’ve done lately, as opposed to what you did five years ago.

Plus, it’s pretty hard to write a compelling reference for someone if you barely remember the nature of your relationship. If someone approaches you for a business reference letter, make sure you know precisely what they want out of it so that you can draft a document that speaks directly to their target audience.

Basic Format of a Business Reference Letter

The format is actually pretty important because it instantly sets your letter apart from a casual referral and lends an air of professionalism and validity. All business letters should include the following sections:

  1. Your contact information

  2. Date

  3. Recipient’s contact information (in this situation, this part might be skipped)

  4. Salutation

  5. Body of the letter

    • How you know the person

    • What work they did for you

    • Your feelings about the work they did

    • Would you hire them again

  6. Offer to speak with them if they have questions

  7. Closing

  8. Signature

You can see how the recipient’s contact information might be omitted from the letter because it’s highly likely that the requester will want to use it in many situations. In this case, just skip it.

But there might be a time that our example above, Dave, is looking to get a big job that means a lot to him so having a letter addressed directly to “Mr. Bigwig” can have a big impact. Because there are two situations that may arise, we’ll cover business reference letter samples for both.

Sample Business Reference Letter for a Specific Person

In this sample, we’re going to pretend that Dave is looking for that big job from Mr. Bigwig and we’ll write him a letter specifically.

Pat Patterson
123 Main Street
Austin, TX 73301
(111) 222-3333
Pat.Patterson@email.com

September 24, 2020

Mr. Peter Bigwig
456 Park Street
Austin, TX 73301

Dear Mr. Bigwig,

It is with great confidence that I am writing to recommend the services of Dave Handy.

I have known Dave and his family for many years, and he has always been a helpful and enthusiastic young man. Recently, he began his own handyman company and I was happy to hire him for some work around my home. I was so completely satisfied with the work he did cleaning and repairing a few of my windows that I immediately hired him to build a corner breakfast nook in my kitchen.

I can’t express enough how happy I was to have both of those projects finally done and with such professionalism, too. Dave was always on time and I felt his bid was quite fair. I am certain that I will hire him again when I need more work done.

I’m happy to recommend his services. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,

Pat Patterson

Business Reference Letter Template

This letter is a more generic one, it’s one that Dave could put on his website or carry with him as he tries to drum up business.

Pat Patterson
123 Main Street
Austin, TX 73301
(111) 222-3333
Pat.Patterson@email.com

September 24, 2020

To Whom It May Concern:

It is with great confidence that I am writing to recommend the handyman services of Dave Handy.

I have been acquainted with Dave for many years and was happy to hear that he had started his own business doing odd jobs and providing handyman services. He has always been helpful and friendly, and I know that woodworking has been a hobby and passion of his for a long time.

I initially hired Dave to clean and repair a few of the windows in my home. I was so satisfied that I immediately hired him to build a corner breakfast nook in my kitchen. The work he did is amazing, and I get compliments from all of my guests.

I can’t express enough how happy I was to have both of those projects finally done and with such professionalism, too. Dave was always on time and I felt his bid was quite fair. I believe I’ll be using his services again when I have another project to do.

I’m happy to recommend his services. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,

Pat Patterson

Uses of a Business Reference Letter

Now, there’s been a lot of talk about Dave and his handyman services and you can probably see how this type of business letter is useful for Dave and in these situations, but when else would you use the letter:

  • You’re an established business looking to stand out from the rest

  • You’re going to leave your current job but are looking for similar work

  • Youdon’t have much work history but want to be a premiere candidate

  • You’re a business and want to fill your waiting room with positive referrals

  • You’re building a web presence and can use good reviews

  • Your work is special in some way and you need testimonials to point it out

  • You’re looking to getyour first job

How to Ask for a Business Reference

Even if you’re being asked to write a business reference, it’s helpful to know what to expect from your referee. To ask for a business reference, follow these steps:

  1. Contact your top choice for referral. It’s common to reach out with a brief phone call or email just to feel out your potential referral’s interest in helping you. A referee should approach their referral as soon as possible, to give that person time to write a stellar reference letter.

  2. Explain your needs. As a referee, it’s incumbent on you to basically outline the reference letter. If the reference is for a specific opportunity, the referee should provide all the relevant details (e.g., the job description, their resume, the details of a business proposal, etc.).

    If your referee doesn’t provide these things upfront, request them. You should also learn the less exciting details, like the due date and required page or word count.

  3. Put the reference letter in a broader context. The referee should also tell you their larger goals for the letter. For instance, what are your business’s long-term goals, and what skills need to be highlighted to reach those goals?

    They can also fill you in on what aspects of their business they want to be made most plain in the contents of the letter.

  4. Thank your reference. Finally, you should always thank your reference for taking the time and energy to help take your business to the next level.

Things to Keep in Mind While Writing a Reference Letter

Remember, when you agree to write a reference letter, you’re saying that you’re willing to have people contact you and verify the reference.

Do people really conduct reference checks? It’s true, they don’t do it as much as they should. Reference checks are important for any business, but they’re often skipped steps. That said, you still need to be prepared to respond to people if they do call or email.

Only point out the good things. If Dave showed up late all the time, it’s better not to mention that and to focus on something he did well. You should also always tell the truth. If you feel you can’t give a good review of someone’s work, their professionalism, and the end results — then you should let them know that you don’t want to write the letter.

It’s a good idea to have a brief conversation with the person asking for the reference before you write it, just to get on the same page.

If it’s going to a specific person, you want to know who, what the scope of the job is, and what they feel would be a good thing to mention to make them stand apart from the competition. If it’s a more generic letter, ask them what they want to highlight. You’re not asking them to write it for you, but a little guidance never hurt.

Finally, be as professional as possible. This might not be something you do regularly, but a little effort will go a long way to help the person who requested the letter. They think enough of you to ask, so it’s your job to do it right.

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Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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