If you've ever done any hiring, you'll know that the reference checking can be the wildest part of the process.
Some people have a lot of trouble coming up with good references or perhaps any references.
In one case (actually more than one), calling the number provided for the candidate's supervisor went to the voicemail for the candidate him/herself--ah, clearly that doesn't help.
However, often candidates don't want their references checked until they have a clear intent of offer, which is sort of understandable--they don't want their references bothered unnecessarily and don't want to jeopardize their current position--but also a little bit of a chicken and egg approach, since you can't provide a real offer without checking references first.
Then, there is a whole different category, where references are just bogus. In fact, according to Bloomberg BusinessWeek (14 January 2013), in an article called "Imaginary Friends as Job References," a CareerBuilder survey of 2,500 hiring managers found that "30% regularly find false or misleading references on applicants CVs."
Maybe candidates think that throwing around big names on their resume will just land them the job or at least get them a foot in the door--not fully realizing that the references will actually get called.
One of the funniest anecdotes in the article was that of a hiring manager who actually found himself listed as a candidate's reference---I can hear the candidate fessing up now, "Oh, did I do that?"
Anyway, it's probably not a good idea to list people that don't know you, don't like you, or are not professional references like your mom, your boy/girlfriend, or your 5th grade teacher--then again, maybe that last one is okay if you're Doggie Howser, M.D. ;-)
(Source Photo: here with attribution to Tulane Publications)