Dave Carvajal

Why I Wrote Hire Smart from the Start

Why I Wrote Hire Smart from the Start

All books are labors of love.

Some are also the fruits of a mission.

That’s the case with my new book, Hire Smart from the Start. It launches January 18 from AMACOM Press.

I wrote Hire Smart from the Start aiming to do nothing less than to disrupt the entire business of hiring.

Disrupt it for the good of the entrepreneurship economy. Because no company is immune to making a bad hire. Everything bad that happens at a company is fundamentally a people problem. This creates massive uncertainty for your colleagues and their families. Good companies fail all the time. Because too many CEOs are winging it.

Disrupt it for the good of all the incredibly dedicated people — the leadership teams, the operations managers, the engineers, marketers, product, sales, client services people and all those who get left behind and miss out on turning entrepreneurial dreams into realities. They deserve better.

Disrupt it because there is a better way. Every leader can read this book and they can make people and culture their strategic competitive advantage. They can make leadership their legacy. And, if they have current success, they can take their success even higher. There is a brighter future. They should know that they can live and they can fight. There can be a new tomorrow.

Sound like a lofty mission? Maybe even a grandiose one?

Let me explain.

For more than two decades I’ve poured my heart and soul into the art of the hire. I started as a humble associate in a traditional placement firm. I found success there because I was hungry and hardworking—at it every morning while most folks were still thinking about their first cup of coffee—and maybe, just maybe, because I truly cared about the people I placed, and the organizations I placed them in.

But there was nothing unusual about my modus operandi. I cold called; I scanned the listings; I cold called; I collected resumes; I cold called; I matched skill sets with role specifications.

Meanwhile the world around the placement firm was plunging headlong into change. The Internet. Search engines. Google, cell phones, crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, data-driven analytics, social media. The entire nature of business and marketing was in flux.

Yet, curiously, the hiring process went on much as it always had: post a role specification, gather in the resumes, match the skills with the job description, run an interview to check the candidate didn’t have two heads – et voila!, some random “new hire” was born.

I knew things had to change.

Seizing opportunity, I became an entrepreneur, and over the next decade I helped to pioneer the Online Recruiting industry through two amazing ventures: HotJobs and Ladders. Those experiences taught me so much. They taught me what it’s like to risk everything on a business venture. What it’s like to build out a company of 650 employees from scratch. What it’s like to take a company to an IPO and watch the value soar.

In the end, I knew deeper transformations were afoot, and I was hungry to do more, to really get at the heart of what hiring meant in the new economy.

So I struck out on my own, as a trusted advisor to boards and CEOs of high tech startups with enormous growth potential, helping them extract and secure extraordinary talent—the right talent for them. People who would flourish in their enterprises; people who would make sure those enterprises flourished.

That venture tested everything I knew and confirmed the strategies, their value and how any leader can create the most important things in business — a common purpose, shared values and clear objectives to achieve their mission. These three vital principles formed the basis of Hire Smart from the Start:

  1. People are everything.

No matter how important you think your business concept or branding or technology might be, your fate as an entrepreneur will be decided by the leadership team you assemble. Your people strategy is your company’s operating system. The quickened pace of our economy means that teams must work seamlessly to provide agility and speed. Old-style firms could “eat” a few bad leadership hires and keep moving along in their own, cumbersome, hierarchical way. Not so today, when competitors can come from down the block or across the ocean, and startup funding flows from a greater variety of sources than ever before in capitalism’s history. A strong leader can establish a strong vision, and that’s crucial. But only a well-tuned team can Get. It. Done.

  1. Teamwork makes the dream work.

Entrepreneurs are susceptible to blind spots when it comes to the human dimension. They tend to be innovative and restless, relentlessly driven folks with a single-minded focus that is usually tied to a sense of personal significance. They tend to see HR as a nettlesome necessity and hiring as a chore. But experience means so much in this respect. I travel the country speaking with seasoned entrepreneurs—women and men who have built billion-dollar businesses and reached the pinnacle of success in their fields—and uniformly they echo the truth of Point 1: People are everything. These high-powered entrepreneurs draw inspiration from great, human-centered change makers like Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, and they look to business leaders like Richard Branson. They have learned to build and trust their teams. The ones who succeed are the ones who have awakened to the value of personal growth and crossed the critical chasm from entrepreneur to leader. They understand that while personal growth is linear, team growth is exponential.

  1. Culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Once you realize the single importance of your team, you need to understand what makes a hire right—how to find the folks who won’t just “do a great job,” but who will build enduring value for your enterprise and help achieve your mission. The key isn’t about skill set, or even a record of past success. Skills can be learned, and folks successful in one context can founder in another. The key, is core values, finding the people who share your beliefs, your priorities, your sense of how a business should run. Those are the people who will put everything they’ve got into your venture. The ones who will make the right calls under pressure. The ones who will help project the sense of unified mission that inspires employees and builds the type of customer experience no amount of marketing can buy.

We are living in an age of abundance. That includes abundance of talent and abundance of entrepreneurial activity. Never in the history of the world has there been a greater flow of resources to good ideas. For every talented candidate, there is a perfect fit. And when the right fits are made, people flourish—and so does the bottom line. Because ultimately the success of every entrepreneur will be determined by their ability to recruit and build culture to achieve their mission.

Recruit better. Achieve more. Make leadership your legacy.

Hire Smart from the Start.

PS – We need to do more than just build leadership values among today’s entrepreneurs; we need to help pave the way for tomorrow’s innovators. That’s why 100% of profits from Hire Smart from the Start will go to Room to Read, a fantastic nonprofit that is breaking down the barriers to literacy, education and gender equality for millions of children worldwide. World Change Starts with Educated Children.

How To Assault People With Your Resume

How To Assault People With Your Resume

Send them a seven (7) page resume.

Worse, write a long boring email that no one wants to read introducing yourself.

Worse plus, have a four (4) page cover letter in addition to the long, boring email self-intro.

The most worse, get someone to introduce you while violating the double opt-in email intro rule.

Regardless, I offer help. Kindness is so important. Especially, when people are in career transition and need advice. Here’s how I responded to Peter’s assault (yes, all of this really happened. Exactly like this. It happens every day. People think they are actually doing you a favor. I know! Crazy.):

Hey Peter — thanks for your note!

I want to be helpful to you.

Here’s my straight impression. Your email and cv are too long. Also, they lack a clear focus.

2 most important points to convey clearly:

What can you do? (no one buys the hammer that is also a screw driver — decide & commit!)

Who (what kind of company) can you do it for?

Trying to be all things to all people is not the answer. Also, writing a resume like a technical manual (list of your accomplishments) is less effective than writing it like a marketing brochure (benefits to the buyer).

If you get your resume professionally written, send that to me.

All the best,


Here is his original, cold outreach email (it came with an attached 7-page resume, and a 4-page cover letter titled CoverLetterSynopsis. The ‘synopsis’ was more than 900 words):

Hi Dave,

Thank you for connecting via LinkedIn.

I have been a venture executive in large companies/entrepreneurial firms and have experience with new ventures/startups, tech investment, international business development, marketing, strategic alliances, P3 and emerging tech/innovation. My career track has placed me at the intersection of energy/transportation/technology /innovation/alliances and venture capital.

I have worked in sales and corporate development, venturing and venture capital environments within large organizations, in consulting/professional services firms, with P3 public-private partnerships, with fledgling startups, with new technologies/IP and with new approaches/business models. Each of these experiences honed abilities to move from concept to commercialization; to act as a change agent, trusted advisor or interpretive manager; to work with global, multidisciplinary and multicultural teams; to structure strategic alliances among diverse groups; and to cultivate an appreciation for the long, complex sales cycle for consultative and iterative client engagements. 

In several of these roles, I have successfully identified, grafted and combined smaller companies’ technology breakthroughs with the wherewithal and staying power of larger companies, enabling sustainable innovation. I have also engaged in active scouting and evaluation of several emerging technology areas: energy-mobility, multimodal & autonomous transportation, smart cities, IoT, predictive analytics, connected home/health, digital lifestyle and block-chain, as examples.

Please see attached my resume/CV and cover letter overview.

I believe these skills and performance metrics are markedly transferable to opportunities you may be pursuing. I look forward to commencing a dialogue. Thanks again.

Best regards,


It all ended quite nicely:


Thank you for your helpful and candid feedback. I will get back to you with a professionally crafted resume for your review.



We live to triumph and inspire another day!

How to Delight With The Double Opt-In Email Introduction

Connecting your new ‘friends’ in business can be valuable. You must take heed in how this is done. Making unsolicited, blind, single opt-in introductions to please a new friend is a pretty big offense as a professional. It makes gross assumptions about the interests of your offended target. It puts all three of you in a precarious position of awkward social, uncertain territory and forces your offended target to either ignore you, privately message you back, or worse, school you on proper email etiquette with a strong possibility of public shaming in an email response that includes your new friend.

It’s better to ask than it is to assume that you know what your target contact currently wants, has time for, or any interest in. Your friend may not be a priority or interest.

So, be professional and conduct yourself with a level of executive decorum that makes people smile and admire your social grace, etiquette and excellence in social comportment. This is attractive to others and endears people to you.

There are two great ways to reach out to your target contacts. In both ways, you first provide context, color and thoughts. Either form of this simple email note ensures value creation and a successful introduction for the benefit of all parties:

…Read More > > >

How to Delight With The Double Opt-In Email Introduction

How to Delight With The Double Opt-In Email Introduction

Connecting your new ‘friends’ in business can be valuable. You must take heed in how this is done. Making unsolicited, blind, single opt-in introductions to please a new friend is a pretty big offense as a professional. It makes gross assumptions about the interests of your offended target. It puts all three of you in a precarious position of awkward social, uncertain territory and forces your offended target to either ignore you, privately message you back, or worse, school you on proper email etiquette with a strong possibility of public shaming in an email response that includes your new friend.

It’s better to ask than it is to assume that you know what your target contact currently wants, has time for, or any interest in. Your friend may not be a priority or interest.

So, be professional and conduct yourself with a level of executive decorum that makes people smile and admire your social grace, etiquette and excellence in social comportment. This is attractive to others and endears people to you.

There are two great ways to reach out to your target contacts. In both ways, you first provide context, color and thoughts. Either form of this simple email note ensures value creation and a successful introduction for the benefit of all parties:

VERSION 1 —  You write a direct note to your target contact (DO NOT COPY YOUR FRIEND):

“Hi Julie, I met Bob the founder of NewCo earlier today and think he has assembled a great team, strong product and great early traction with their AI SaaS engine. They’ve signed 8 big name clients and a bunch of smaller ones. Want an intro?”

If Julie says yes, then some form of this:

“Hi Julie & Bob, It is my pleasure to intro you. I’ve mentioned you briefly to each other and am certain you will both enjoy meeting up. I’ll leave you from here. Best, Dave”

VERSION 2 — Ask your ‘friend’ to send you a blurb along with any info that you can forward along with an endorsement or simple ask. This could be easier & faster for you and looks something like this:

Hi Julie — please see note below from Bob. NewCo is interesting and I like him. Feel free to follow up directly and mention my name or let me know if you’d like an intro? Best, Dave”

Success in business requires being selective about your relationships, making new friends, connections and nurturing your relationships. Cultivating important relationships over the long term requires you to conduct yourself in a way that makes others want to nurture your relationship back. Relationships are a place to give, not take. Be respectful of people’s time, energy & bandwidth.

And remember, the Golden Rule is golden for a reason.

How To Triumph With People & Executive Recruiting

How To Triumph With People & Executive Recruiting

The most highly qualified, high caliber talent that you need are not unemployed, sitting on a couch eating potato chips, waiting for the phone to ring.

The three truths about high achievers are that:

  1. They are good at what they do.
  2. People like them.
  3. And they are generally capable of creating the circumstances in their lives for this thing called happiness.

So, at a minimum, they are at least mildly interested, actively engaged in whatever they are currently doing. Recruiting is about disrupting their comfort to ‘extract and secure’ the talent you need for your company.

You must believe that everybody is on the market for the right set of circumstances. Identify who are the all stars that you need inside of your company, extract and secure them. It’s not easy. Stop whining. Be persistent.

People. Idea. Capital. Capital is abundant. Idea is over-rated, more important than an idea is execution. Execution is all about people. So, you are left with people and capital. People are by far the most important.

All teams are not created equal. Build executive teams with purpose.

The advantage that agency recruiters have in assessing the best talent, culture fit and securing the right hires is that we get to go in clean and clear of predisposed notions or any colored thinking about your company.

Offering candidates clean, objective, unbiased data about the market, compensation and opportunities with the leading executive teams in growth companies is valuable in creating a relationship, first.

To understand first, a candidates motivations and where they are trying to get to, allows for trust and a better partnership in career guidance.

Social media, blogging can be distracting. Staying focused on the primary work is the key for creating high-quality results, first.

The best self promoters and propaganda creators are not the best at what they do. It’s important to prioritize high-quality work, first.

So much noise, people want to be marketed to less and less.

Say meaningful, thoughtful things.

Connecting is more important than noise.

When you’ve identified the people with whom you want to connect, find out about them and connect with them in a way that is more interesting.

Connect as a human being first. Understand their interests.

Triathlons and Ironman racing is awesome. Fitness is a great way to make connections!

Great recruiting can only happen by building trust and being an effective partner to the top executives in your market.

Talk for as long as possible about human interests — rapport, laughter and common interests create real connection.

People want to do business with people who are like them. Find the similarities, the things that bring you closer. Delay for as long as possible talking about business. Learn about their deepest desires, dreams and motivations. Only this way can you then jump in to help them and be an effective partner to them.

To lead is to recruit and build culture. Make recruiting and culture your strategic competitive advantage. And, make leadership your legacy.

These were some of the insightful takeaways from a great panel discussion. In attendance were some of the brightest stars in human resources, talent acquisition and People teams from NYC tech and from all around the country at the JobMobile Summit. The panel was led by Career Advice Expert Amanda Augustine, CPCC and included Cat Hernandez @CatMHernandez, Deb Josephs, and Susan Yun @SusanEYun.

The Nobel-Prize winning author, Isaac Bashevis Singer said “Two important things are to have a genuine interest in people and to be kind to them. Kindness, I’ve discovered, is everything.”

He was right.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.


Big Law’s Newest Competition for Talent Is an Old Foe

Big Law’s Newest Competition for Talent Is an Old Foe

By Gina Passarella / August 29, 2017

The first time law firms found themselves fighting with the technology industry for talent, it was the 1990s. Tech startups offered stock options, the chance to work on cutting-edge matters and a suit-free office environment. “At that point we were losing pretty junior folks directly to true startups,” recalls a management committee member of an Am Law 25 firm. “It was a real cosmic shift in our talent pool [and] drove cultural change like law firms going business casual.”

In the age of the millennial generation, tech is again a tough rival to law firms’ associate recruitment and retention efforts. Leaders at firm after firm point to technology companies as the biggest draw for young associates who are looking to make a change. But this time, it’s different.

While losing lawyers to tech used to be a problem only for the Silicon Valley firms, the phenomenon has spread across the country, as the tech scene has made homes in cities like New York, Pittsburgh, Seattle and places in between. Meanwhile, the tech world has grown up over the last 20 years and so have its legal needs. Tech companies need help with more than just Silicon Valley financing. Now they are looking for help on litigation, M&A and more, says the Am Law 25 management committee member.

“Whether it’s a Google or Facebook, [they are] way, way, way out of the garage. But they still have an allure. There is a difference going to one of those companies today. You may still get to wear jeans and T-shirts if you go to one of those companies, but you are going to a big, grown-up, mature company with grown-up problems,” this lawyer says, noting that a range of more sophisticated work is attractive to the firm’s talent pool.

And because these companies are larger, they are able to take even more junior lawyers to fill out departments, causing more second- and third-years to leave law firm life. “The same level of associates that used to go to big corporate America like pharma or Ford or GM might now go to a tech company,” the management member says.

Dave Carvajal, who has been a headhunter in the New York tech start-up scene for more than 20 years, says it used to be that top talent out of the top programs in the Northeast would have three options: finance, management consulting or the West Coast internet scene. That changed in 2008, he says, when the New York technology sector saw a boom in the wake of the credit crisis and the world of investment banking and management consulting lost some of its luster.

Carvajal says he has seen a number of lawyers, somewhat disillusioned with law firm life, reach out to him looking to reinvent their lives. He has often seen candidates who became lawyers mostly because their parents wanted them to. “But what truly lights them up is expressing another part of their being or their brain,” Carvajal says. “They make these epiphanies in personal growth. They want to take a pivot on the strategic direction of their life. Tech startups are attracting the best talent and allow them to express that creativity.”

Some law firms are forming startup incubators of their own, offering cheaper legal services
to growing companies or helping set them up with investor-clients. But that work isn’t always enough to keep associates satisfied. Carvajal says that millennials have a “supremely larger interest” in having “mission orientation” and being a part of something that is being driven with “wisdom, meaning and purpose.”

Investment banking, and even the law, can feel soulless to this younger generation, he says, adding that they are “looking to disrupt and change the world.” What better way to do that than through technology?

Via: The American Lawyer

Alt-Right Activists Thrust Silicon Valley Into Debate on Hate Speech

Alt-Right Activists Thrust Silicon Valley Into Debate on Hate Speech

By Martha C. White / August 21, 2017

Even as it wrestles with its own diversity issues, Silicon Valley has become the reluctant arbiter of the line where free speech crosses into hate speech in the wake of the deadly protests in Charlottesville.

In an age where a lack of condemnation is tantamount to complicity, experts say tech firms have no choice but to disassociate from the alt-right, although as a growing number of tech companies cut off white nationalist groups from the platforms they use for communication, commerce, and content distribution, some have criticized the response as too little, too late.

“There’s a very intimate history between internet service providers and white supremacist groups,” said Joan Donovan, media manipulation research lead at the Data & Society Research Institute. “There was plenty of warning that this stuff was being coordinated in their spaces,” she said, but tech companies initially resisted policing the activity.

Historically, Silicon Valley has presented itself on embracing diversity in all its forms, albeit for pragmatic rather than political reasons: Cutthroat competition for users and talent means that companies can’t afford to be exclusionary.

“The reason this is a heightened issue in technology is technology is much more heterogeneous — it’s all over the world,” said Dave Carvajal, CEO of a technology-focused recruiting firm.

“It’s this belief people have that the tech industry should be the most modern, the most cutting edge,” said Brian Kropp, HR Practice Leader at CEB (now Gartner). “It also has this promise of capturing what tomorrow is going to be like.”

But putting these egalitarian principles into practice hasn’t always been easy. Even before Charlottesville, companies have stumbled in the gap between “bro culture” and Silicon Valley’s self-image of open-mindedness.

Uber’s ouster of CEO Travis Kalanick shone an embarrassing spotlight on the ingrained misogyny at some firms, and Google’s recent firing of engineer James Damore, who argued in a widely distributed memo that women are biologically less well-suited for tech jobs, triggered accusations that the search giant is intolerant of conservative views.

“I think what’s happening is a lot of these kinds of deep-rooted issues are being brought to the surface because of the political theater that’s happening right now. It’s stirring up a lot of this,” Carvajal said.

The violence at a white nationalist rally that left one counter-protester dead and others injured has brought this tension into sharper focus.

“They’ve been pushing very hard on many of these issues. Now they’re at a point where they have to make really hard decisions… whether or not they stand up to all the values they’ve talked about and promoted,” Kropp said.

Some tech firms have been more receptive to curtailing alt-right activity than others, said Rashad Robinson, executive director of advocacy group Color of Change.

“A lot of them seem super-focused on terms of services and this idea of an open platform,” he said. “We hear things like they share our values… but at this time there’s not going to be an update to policy.”

Some of the challenges are logistical rather than ideological, since much of the enforcement can’t be automated. It takes humans making judgement calls, and the line between talk and action online isn’t always clear. “There hasn’t been a good model so far for policy around how to monitor or prevent certain amounts of content,” Donovan said.

Tech companies also don’t want to alienate potential customers or trigger a public relations backlash. According to Ted Marzilli, CEO of YouGov BrandIndex, consumer sentiment metrics for Facebook, Apple and GoDaddy reflected little change this week. “They’re not getting a lot of credit from consumers, but they’re not being punished, either,” he said.

This could embolden other Silicon Valley leaders to terminate alt-right and white nationalist business relationships, Marzilli said, even if it costs them. “These things are always a bit risky for companies from the perspective of dollars and cents,” he said.

Whether driven by a sense of moral obligation, concern about public perception or some combination of the two, last weekend’s violence seemed to be a wake-up call, Robinson said. “It’s certainly accelerated since Charlottesville,” he said of companies’ willingness to cut ties with white nationalist groups.

“They started to think about their role in promoting this kind of talk,” Donovan said. “One thing these platforms really understand about themselves is they don’t just allow speech to flow, they do the job of coordinating action… They saw that this kind of open unmoderated speech online produced violent effects.”

Via: NBC News

The personality trait most people see as a weakness may actually be a huge asset in business

The personality trait most people see as a weakness may actually be a huge asset in business

Áine Cain / July 20, 2017

Humility isn’t a trait you’d often associate with business.

Confidence, resilience, and persuasiveness are all no-brainers, but it’s hard to see how a generous slice of humble pie will get you ahead.

If anything, it would seem like having a modest view of your abilities and putting others before you would hold you back even in a mildly competitive office culture.

But that’s where Dave Carvajal, CEO of executive headhunting firm “Dave Partners” and author of the upcoming book “Hire Smart from the Start,” disagrees.

“Humility, I think, is woefully undervalued in American business,” he tells Business Insider.

In fact, Carvajal, who has placed execs within companies like Warby Parker, Shutterstock, and Tumblr, says that smart companies should seek out humble folks. That goes double for companies looking to disrupt or innovate industries.

With disruption comes mistakes and lessons learned on the job. Humble people aren’t ruled by their egos — they can admit to and learn from mistakes and change course when necessary. They don’t strive for success for themselves, but instead work toward the betterment of their teams. They avoid division and undercutting, preferring a more collaborative style of leadership and teamwork.

That makes them ideal for companies that are striving to enter new territory.

“All learning and growth requires openness,” Carvajal says.

Via: Business Insider

A recruiter for some of the hottest tech companies shares the biggest hiring mistake companies can make

A recruiter for some of the hottest tech companies shares the biggest hiring mistake companies can make

Áine Cain / July 19, 2017

Hiring the wrong person can be an expensive mistake.

Twenty-seven percent of US employers surveyed by CareerBuilder said that just one bad hire cost their company more than $50,000. And Zappos CEO Tony Hseih once estimated his own bad hires cost the company more than $100 million.

All that money goes down the toilet when things don’t work out.

Dave Carvajal, CEO of executive headhunting firm “Dave Partners” and author of the upcoming book “Hire Smart from the Start,” has placed execs within companies like Warby Parker, Shutterstock, and Tumblr.

He says that, too often, companies looking to make an executive-level hire make one big mistake: they focus too much on technical capabilities.

“Any reasonably intelligent person can look at a résumé and say, ‘This is a great CTO,’ but that’s not the task at hand,” Carvajal tells Business Insider. “The task at hand is, ‘This a great CTO, for us.’ Those two little words, ‘for us,’ change everything.”

In order to better vet candidates, Carvajal says that a business must first get “crystal clear” on its core values and put technical prowess on the back-burner.

Because all of your best candidates should possess the required technical skills and work experience — that goes without saying.

“People are more likely to fail based on fit, not based on technical skills,” Carvajal says. “Whether anyone will succeed or fail at any company has everything to do with fit. What we really have to vet for is those core values.”

So, instead of getting dazzled by strong résumés or focusing all your energy on assessing a candidate’s skills, make sure you’re truly determining whether or not their goals are in line with those of your company.

In the end, that’s a better predictor of whether they’ll succeed at your company.

Via: Business Insider

Why You’re Reading Work Emails Right Now

Why You’re Reading Work Emails Right Now

By Martha C. White / May 29, 2017

First, the good news: More Americans are taking advantage of the vacation time granted to them by their employers. The bad news: They’re spending more of that supposedly off-the-clock time working.

A new annual report from the U.S. Travel Association found that, after dropping to an all-time low of 16 days in 2014, the average American worker took 16.8 vacation days in 2016, up from 16.2 days last year.

The reversal is a good sign, according to Katie Denis, the report’s author and senior director of Project: Time Off. “This year we felt like it was more substantial,” she said.

Still, she added, American workers forfeited 206 million vacation days last year. That was an 8 percent drop from 2015, however. “I think there’s greater awareness of the importance of vacation,” Denis said.

Or it could be that we’re taking more vacation days because we’ve simply come to think of “vacation” as working poolside at a resort rather than in the office. A new survey from Glassdoor.com found that although 91 percent of workers took at least some vacation time in the last year — up from 85 percent three years ago — about two-thirds of those people say they work during vacation, an increase of five percentage points over that same time frame.

“Some employers and managers have also gotten used to reaching out to their employees at all hours. That’s a pretty bad way to work,” said Scott Dobroski, community expert at Glassdoor.

Are We Afraid of Vacations?

Dobroski said it would benefit companies more if they actively encouraged workers to step back and take a real break. “More employers need to remind their employees that vacation time is valued… you need to use it,” he said. “They will come back more productive, re-energized, more creative.”

But a new survey from OfficeTeam, a Robert Half company, indicates that a disconnect remains between the lip service companies pay to the value of vacation and the unspoken cultural codes that prevent many workers from using their time off.

Roughly 40 percent of workers surveyed by Robert Half said flexible schedules were the top summertime perk they would like, but a parallel survey of HR managers found that the number of companies offering this dropped by 13 percentage points over five years.

Daryl Pigat, division director at OfficeTeam, suggested one reason behind this could be that flexibility is integrated into more companies’ year-round scheduling practices today. But he also said the survey results — which showed that companies have sharply pulled back on other summertime perks like company picnics, relaxed dress codes and early-dismissal Fridays — could indicate a shift back to a more buttoned-up work environment.

“There could be a trend towards bringing back a little more formality to the workplace,” he said. “I think we’re at a tipping point… I definitely see where companies are pulling back a little bit.”

What’s more, experts say another phenomenon that could be making Americans’ vacation habits look artificially rosy is the growth of “unlimited” vacation, popularized by tech companies like LinkedIn and Netflix.

“The rising trend is this theme of unlimited vacation. It’s certainly crossing boundaries into other industries now,” Dobroski said.

While this might sound good in theory, HR pros say it can actually wind up being more advantageous for the employer. Dobroski pointed out that employees with an unlimited policy might no longer track their vacation days, making them less likely to realize if they’re not taking it.

There’s also a significant financial benefit for companies, said Dave Carvajal, CEO of a technology-focused recruiting firm. For fast-paced and competitive sectors like tech start-ups where turnover can be high, unlimited vacation can give companies a legal way around paying as much as $20,000 or $30,000 in unused vacation pay to departing highly paid workers.

“On the face of it, it seems very appealing, it has a very positive sheen on it. Most employees don’t actually realize or understand that’s the driving motivation behind it,” he said.

The Office Is in Our Pocket

Without a culture that encourages people to take time off, people are too stressed about the work they leave behind to really enjoy their vacations. According to a new survey by Wyndham Vacation Rentals, 36 percent of respondents said they were stressed about falling behind at work while planning for a vacation, and 31 percent said it took until at least the second day of vacation for them to unwind.

“If you have a smartphone, your office is still in your pocket. Without proper preparation, it can be very stressful,” Denis said.

OfficeTeam found that around a third of HR managers complain that employees don’t do a good job planning ahead for summer vacations, and industry experts say laying the groundwork for work coverage before you go is the best proactive step employees can take to keep work from encroaching on vacation.

“I think a lot of it is planning. Planning is by far the easiest and best thing you can do,” Denis said.

“It’s all about planning ahead, and I don’t mean one day in advance. You should be thinking about this two weeks in advance,” Dobroski said.

That can be easier said than done, though. Denis said the new Project: Time Off survey found that people who planned ahead for their absence were both more likely to take a vacation and happier overall, but that people working for companies that tacitly or expressly frown on taking time off were less likely to broach the subject of how their responsibilities are covered while they were out of the office — so they wound up being the ones fielding emails or participating in conference calls during their vacation.

“During the recession, companies asked people to do more with less, and coming out of the recession, that didn’t really change,” Denis said. “I’d say there’s a lot of lingering workload pressures.”

“Over the past few years, we’ve transitioned into a society of workers that is always on,” Carvajal said. “It’s the first thing people do when they wake up, they check their phone,” he said.

Via: NBC News