Proactively cultivate your references. They do not materialize overnight.
Executive search firms and hiring companies will do 360’ referencing. Identify and develop targeted superiors, peers and subordinates from your past and present as references.
To build strong references take an active interest in these current and former colleagues and support them.
Take care to not create vocal detractors/enemies who may badmouth you in hearing about your candidacy.
Maintain a current list of references with up to date contact information, their current position, and how they know you. You do not want to lose momentum at this stage of the hiring process while you identify references and gather current contact information.
Pre-test your references if possible with an early job offering or through an executive coach.
Inform your references when and from whom they should be expecting phone calls. Provide these references with a copy of your resume and the job specification if not confidential.
Respect all confidentialities, especially confidential search assignments and position specifications. If you leak a “confidence” and it gets back to the hiring firm you will likely be disqualified from further consideration, or worse.