Not really, is my experience. Reference checks are overhyped and given way too much weight in the recruitment process. I am not saying you should not do reference checks, but merely suggesting to put this one input some perspective.
A reference check is only one piece of the jigsaw puzzle which you must piece together before making that big decision: who to hire. Checks are inherently biased.
You will typically be calling people referred to you by the candidate. OK, not always you say. You also call the HR who may confirm employment details but rarely give comments on personality, attitude and leadership style.
But how do you measure how well the person actually knows the candidate? How do you check that the person you speak to is 100% sure who you are talking about? How do you know that the reference is not the boyfriend, the neighbour, or an old school mate? How do you know that someone is not retaliating against an old enemy and see this opportunity to settle an old score? Can you be sure that the reference is not drunk, sick or has some emotional disorder?
And what about this one: the reference wants the job and is on purpose backstabbing your chosen candidate?
From my own files and real life experience: how do you know that you are not calling the candidate herself on her second secret mobile number? Yes, it happened in our practice. Only because of an alert consultant who spoke to the reference, i.e. the candidate herself, did we realise in time what was going on. We immediately reported our findings to our client and the person’s employment was cancelled even before it started.