When applying for a faculty position (from assistant to full professor), the search committee asks for 3 - 5 recommendation letters by people who know the applicant professionally (and probably in person).
The first factor for choosing a reference is his/her relationship with the applicant, but another important factor is the (academic) position of the writer. Possible references can be:
- Past PhD student/post-doctoral fellow who is now an assistant professor: probably he is the best person to describe the applicant's attitude towards students and education (something that is critical for the search committee).
- A faculty colleague: closely witnessed the applicant works, but not directly involved.
- Department chair: supervised the applicant, but probably his view is just the standpoint of a boss.
- Dean: had less connection with the applicant, but can provide a top view about the applicant.
- Provost/Vice Presidents: very little direct connection, but can show the applicant's relationship with senior people.
The point is that how to balance the level of relationship and the reference's position? Normally, recommendation letters by people with higher positions are more reliable, and can be trusted search committee, as a colleague may bias the letter for a colleague, but a provost will not do this for an employee.
Is the position of a reference more important than his/her direct connection with the applicant (considering the fact that a senior person has no reason to write a recommendation letter for someone he does not know personally)?
UPDATE: Some commented that references should be not-related peers, not people who know the applicant. It seems I'm a little bit confused.
Do you list references who do not know you at the end of CV/resume? References named in the applicant CV can be contacted for a job application.
Some job ads ask the applicant to arrange submission of three letters of recommendation to the search committee (for example, see a job ad at UC Berkeley). Do you ask people who do not know you to submit a recommendation letter about you?
Nowadays, most job applications are via online systems. When the online system requests a recommendation letter just send an email to the named reference to submit his/her recommendation for Mr./Mrs. X (but will not attach his/her resume or works). How one who does not know the applicant can then submit a recommendation letter.