So I came across a site that sells people fake references for the purpose of a job or an apartment. This got me to thinking about the implications on hiring and screening practices. It also led me to wonder about the usefulness of a reference in judging a person.
The result of this might be people become more vigorous in checking reference sources, or relying on references less, and maybe shifting more to training periods. Since more work always lose out to less work, I suspect the latter will be the case.
On to the merits of references. How does one know a person's former boss likes him because he is a good worker rather than a good drinking buddy? Or he might just be a mediocre worker who happens to share the same bias as the reference. One boss' hard worker can be another boss' shit disturber. How does a subjective review tell you anything if you don't know anything about the reference, given the fallibility of the human bias. Also you are guaranteed that the references are going to be good, so how do you find reliable analysis from these?
Note that I think there is a large market in academic reference forgeries. I wonder if somebody will try it, and how it can be done. Schools are institutions that are hard to fake, and a community of professors is close-knit enough to make it easy to spot fakes. Schools also have the power to retroactively void a student's credentials making it too risky for students to attempt.