KNOW WHERE REFERENCES HELP AND DON'T HELP
A lot of people have positive or negative feelings about using references.
To use references properly, you have to know their limitations.
For example, many references are friends of the candidate so you must:
1 - Drill into the nature of the relationship & discount answers accordingly.
2 - Press for specifics. Discount answers that are too vague (e.g., John was great! No weaknesses!).
3 - Where specifics can't be provided, you either A) didn't properly instruct the candidate or B) it's a red or yellow flag.
Given this, should we even use references?
The thing about references is '20% of the time, they work every time.'
Typically they help flag the extremes.
The worst candidates (e.g., habitual bridge burners) will struggle with references. After all, they burned those bridges.
For the best candidates, references will sing them praises - with specifics.
For the 80% in the middle (including good candidates), they won't be as helpful.
So leave them for the end, as a tie breaker or one last data point.