References can help employers get a better sense of potential employees, and most will check a job candidate's references at some point during the interview process. Reference checks can vary from conducting a simple verification of employment dates to seeking deeper details, such as speaking to a former supervisor about your work ethic.
Attaching your references to your resume or job application is no longer the norm, according to CareerBuilder.com. Instead, you should wait until the company asks you to provide the references -- usually at the end of the first interview. At that point, you know more about the position and what type of employee they are looking for; this allows you to provide references that are relevant, useful and can highlight your best points.
There is no standard time that all employers check references. Many check them before the second interview, but some will wait until just before making a job offer. CareerBuilder.com explains that some companies restrict what their employees can say when someone calls to check a reference. A prospective employer may thus forgo calling your references, assuming that they won't necessarily provide an accurate view of your personality.
Before you go into the second interview, it's smart to assume that the hiring company called your references. Think about any work-related comments your references may have made, both positive and negative, so you can be prepared to talk about them. For example, the interviewer may want to know more about a project your previous manager said you worked on or ask about a legal action that you took against a former employer.
Companies know your references won't always show the full picture. In addition to contacting your references, the employer also may search your name online, reviewing social networking sites such as LinkedIn or Facebook. Be aware that this may show a side of you that you don't want the employer to see.