I recently joined a C++ project and I had to make the build process with no hard-coded paths to dependencies and I decided to use the References. Everything is good and nice until one of the projects gives the error from the title: linker error - some external symbol could not be found. If you want to get more information on linker, you can use /verbose option.
In my case, at the setting Project Properties->Linker->General->Link Library Dependencies was set to No. Setting it on Yes, fixed all the linker errors.
Hopes it helps!