in reply to At what stage in a job interview process should references come into play?

I agree with you. The major problem for me is I'm very shy in person, so I don't tend to "network" very well. Also, my first job at a startup I quit after not getting paid, so after two years I have only one reference source, unless I ask a professor I did research with in a totally unrelated field. The reference is the part I dread most.