What is a Business Reference?

Whether you are applying for a job or looking for new contracts to grow your business, references are always important.

Businesses and employers often prefer endorsement of a business or individual from past clients, supervisors, contractors, or employers.

Therefore, we can say that the importance of references has not dimmed over time.

And the best way to have more contacts and business endorsements is through networking. Fair enough!

But how to get a business reference when you are required by your prospective employer or a business partner? Well, you will need to understand a business reference and how you get one.

Besides, you might have to provide a recommendation letter on behalf of someone. Therefore, understanding how to write a business reference letter is also necessary.

In this article, we are going to discuss everything about business references. You will get to know everything from defining references to types of business references and from getting a business reference to writing a reference letter for an employee or contractor. So let’s get into it.

What Is A Business Reference?

Let’s start with defining a business reference.

Let’s talk in the context of a business reference for contractors or business associates.

It will be a recommendation given on behalf of any vendor, client, contact, or business associate. The purpose of the business reference is to verify the contract company’s work quality to a new client they will work with in the future. When signing up with a new supplier, vendor, contractor, etc., such references are often required by the companies or contractors.

We can also define a business reference based on the employment requirements.

You must often furnish personal, professional, or business references when applying for a job. The prospective employer might ask for a business reference as a determining factor for hiring the best match for their company. The purpose of a business reference in a job application is to verify the applicant’s credibility and background in the previous workplace.

Types of Business Reference

So there are generally four types of business references that are used in different contexts. We will briefly explain each of them:

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Professional Reference

We will call a reference a professional reference from an individual who has the knowledge to talk about a person’s ability to do a job.

A business reference from a supervisor, coworker, or client can be treated as a professional reference.

Academic Reference

An academic reference can be defined as commenting about and endorsing your academic capabilities and suitability for a specific program of study, internships, jobs, etc.

An academic reference is often from a school teacher, counselor, college professor, or vocational instructor, depending on the circumstances.

Employment Reference

It is written to talk about the work ethics, capabilities, achievements, and performance of an employee during an individual’s stay at a workplace. The employment reference is written by supervisors, HR employees, mentors, or managers.

Personal Reference

The fourth type of business reference is personal preference. Such a reference is often given by a person who is not related to an individual’s workplace.

Such reference is not from the current or previous employer but from a friend, family member, etc. A personal reference is also called a character reference.  

Who To Get Business Reference From?

It is often asked whom to get business references from. We have already discussed different types of business references and who can be requested for a reference in varying circumstances.

Here is a sum up of different references and the corresponding person you can request a reference in each case:

  1. Personal Reference –Your friend, classmate, family member, or someone having a personal relationship with you outside your workplace.
  2. Employment Reference –Your supervisor, manager, Human Resource Person, Boss, etc.
  3. Academic Reference –Your teacher, counselor, trainer, college professor, vocational teacher, etc.
  4. Professional Reference –Your colleague, supervisor, peer, etc.

How To Request A Business Reference?

Let’s get to the process of requesting a business reference in any of the circumstances we have mentioned in the types of business references.

The popular method of getting a business reference from your current or previous employer, supervisor, colleague, or any other relevant person is as follows:

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1.    Select The Most Feasible Way To Contact

The individual you are looking for a reference from might be living in another city or country. You might have the contact details, or you might not.

Whatever the case, make arrangements to get the contact details according to your relationship with them.

For instance, meeting in person might be the best solution if you have a business contact. Whereas you might leave a message or email for a contact, you are more comfortable with.

2.    Don’t Delay Initiating Communication With Relevant Person

Once you have determined how you are going to contact the individual, do not wait for the right time because the right time is always now!

Besides, you don’t have to bombard your contact with pressure to give you a reference. Instead, it would help if you always gave them advance notice to have enough time to catch up with their thoughts and write a comprehensive reference highlighting notable achievements.

3.    Discuss Your Need And Reference Requirements

Once you have initiated the communication, clearly explain your needs and reference requirements. Also, explain to them the type of reference you need.

For instance, in the case of verbal reference, ask the preferable contact method of the referrer. In the case of a company reference letter, explain to them the due date and make sure the referrer can complete the letter before the due date.

In short, whatever the reference requirements, make sure that you have discussed them with the referrer and developed a consensus.

4.    Provide Them With Relevant Information and Background Data

Once you are on the same page with the referrer, provide him with the relevant background information for creating a personalized reference letter that is convincing as well as highlights your characteristics relevant to the job.

The example of relevant background information that you should provide to the referrer includes the post you are applying for, potential employer(name, industry, company mission, etc.), your current role and responsibilities, skills or achievements, professional experience, etc.

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5.    Clearly Tell Them the Purpose Of Reference And Its Use

It is unethical to get a reference from an individual by stating something and using it otherwise later on.

Therefore, you should make it clear what specific purpose you will use reference for, if you will use reference for one or more jobs, etc.

Besides, in the future, if you intend to use the same reference by making a few changes, make sure to seek permission from the referrer or ask them to give you a new reference.

6.    Don’t Forget To Thanks For The Reference

Once your referrer has shown willingness to provide the reference and work on it, don’t forget to thank him for his efforts and time.

It is always a positive gesture to acknowledge the extra mile any person will go to help you improve your professional career or business.

How To Write Business Reference Letter?

Let’s quickly talk about how to write a business reference letter. It is important to know the referrer as well as the person seeking the reference. The common information that is included in a reference is as follows:

  • The date
  • Contact information of the referrer(writer): name, title, address, company name, phone, email
  • Contact information of the letter recipient: name, title, address, company name, phone, email(when you are sending a printed letter)
  • Professional salutation
  • The letter body comprising of a few paragraphs to highlight the purpose of reference and recommendation
  • Professional closing of the letter
  • Signature

You can find different templates of business reference letters written in different circumstances. It will help you understand how to compose the body of the letter.


We have discussed everything you need to know about a business reference. Whether you are a referrer or someone looking for a reference letter from a contact, you can read this article to understand all requirements, your circumstances, and your specific needs.

We hope you will get the right reference from your contacts and get what you are looking to achieve!