Business Reference Letter Recommending Professional Services

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Have you been asked to write a letter of recommendation for someone you know who has applied for a new job in your industry or is seeking a new client? It's flattering to be asked, and it always feels good to help someone you have a professional relationship with, but there are some things you should know about writing a business recommendation letter.

If you're writing a letter as your organization’s representative, know that while some companies allow their employees to write reference letters freely, others may censor or prohibit them entirely. So, be sure to find out what your employer's policies are before consenting.

Many organizations also have references go through human resources (HR). Check with your company's policies before proceeding.

If you’re a business owner and a current or former contractor requests a recommendation letter from you, read the following guide to use your discretion.

When Should You Write a Recommendation Letter

The candidate should be someone you know fairly well and with whom you have recently worked. For example, you likely can't provide a recommendation for someone you worked with ten years ago or with whom you only worked for a month. Although it might be tempting, you’d be relying on either old or not enough, information, both of which may be misleading. There’s just no way to know. So, unless you can truly speak to someone’s existing skills, politely decline their request.

You should know the candidate in a role which allows you to write a meaningful reference. For example, if you have worked with the person as a freelance writer but he's now starting a dog walking business, you can't attest to his skills in another realm.

In such cases, it’s best to decline and perhaps offer advice as to who would make a better candidate. If he wants to start a dog walking business, he should already have a steady clientele who can genuinely vouch for his abilities.

Write the letter only if you can honestly offer a positive reference. If you have nothing positive to say about their performance, do the honest thing and say you're unable to contribute. If you feel obligated to give an excuse why:

  1.     Be completely honest and say you don’t feel comfortable writing on their behalf.
  2.     Tell a white lie such as, “I’m not in the position to write recommendation letters.”

Though you may feel awkward or guilty, trust your intuition. Besides, an unauthentic letter will serve neither the applicant nor their potential employer well.

Stick to the Facts

Once you agree to write the letter, keep it focused and include only information that is factual and truthful. Avoid saying something that is strictly opinion – it might work against someone being considered for future employment and could potentially result in legal problems for you and your company. Making a lofty claim like, “Louisa is a brilliant writer,” on its own is dangerous. You should be able to support it with outside recognition or an award that her work received. If you cannot, you might say, "Louisa consistently produced great content for us.”

In the same vein, avoid exaggerated and overly positive statements. If you build someone up too much, the letter might not carry any weight with future clients or employers.

How to Structure a Reference Letter

1. Introduce yourself in the opening paragraph to set up your position and your relationship to the candidate. Let the reader know why you qualify to prepare such a letter. 

2. Confirm facts about the candidate and where he is currently employed (if he is):

  • The person’s job title and company
  • How long you worked with the person
  • When you worked with the person, if you don’t currently
  • The nature of your business relationship or the capacity in which you worked with the candidate.
  • Offer your judgment of the candidate's skills and qualities concerning their professional services. Emphasize their most valuable traits, such as writing skills, problem-solving or time management. You can draw out any exceptional abilities, state that you would happily reemploy them, and note specifically how their professional services benefited you and your organization.

    4. Use the final paragraph to add any additional examples or anecdotes as you see fit. 

    5. Lastly, close by offering to answer any further questions or provide follow-up information.

    Business Reference Letters Recommending Professional Services

    Review the following business reference letters recommending professional services.

    Example #1

    Dear Mr. Eggleston,

    I am writing to recommend the services of Daniel Lightheart, CPA. Daniel has been working for my law firm for the past fifteen years as our accountant and bookkeeper. His knowledge and attention to detail have aided in keeping our company on track during the recent recession and through a major restructure.

    I feel confident in recommending Daniel's accounting services.

    He is not only thorough but also easy to work with and always willing to take the time to discuss my concerns and respond to questions.

    If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me.

    Regards,

    Annabelle Sebastian

    Partner, Sebastian & Associates
    Office: 866-123-4567
    asebastian@sebastianlaw.com

    Example #2

    Dear Ms. Kelly,

    I am Vice President of ABC Watches am writing to recommend the marketing services of Michaela Brown. Michaela created and implemented many successful campaigns for us from July 2012 to January 2016.

    Her design software expertise coupled with her collaborative and innovative spirit made her the go-to expert for our most significant projects. She single-handedly took our Twitter following from 1,000 to over 52,000 in just three months by using forward-thinking strategies. She was detail-oriented, organized and always open to constructive feedback, making our business relationship both effortless and pleasant.

    I recommend Michaela for any role through which she can contribute her remarkable creativity and dedication. If hired, I am confident that she would take your marketing efforts to new heights.

    If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me.

    Regards,

    Lisa Moore

    Vice President, ABC Watches
    Office: 800-212-4444
    asebastian@abcwatches.com

    Answer Any Follow-Up Questions

    Sending a letter of recommendation is vital to a potential job candidate or service provider and by following this format, you'll provide helpful information to the prospective client or employer. You may receive a simple “thank you” response, or they may ask more detailed questions about the applicant. In any case, be sure to respond promptly.