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These traits can help you boost odds of getting hired

| Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, 9:30 p.m.

This is the year employers will be ever so cautious about adding many permanent employees to their ranks.

It sounds a lot like last year — and the year before.

Yes, 24 percent of employers expect to hire full-time, permanent staff in 2014, according to CareerBuilder's annual survey of 2,200 hiring managers. In fact, that's down a bit from last year at 26 percent. (CareerBuilder is owned by a trio of companies: Gannett Co. Inc., USA Today's parent company; The McClatchy Co.; and Tribune Co.)

What is predicted to go up somewhat this year is the hiring of temporary or contract workers and part-time employees. Of more than two in five employers who plan to hire temp workers, 43 percent plan to turn some of those into full-time, permanent staff.

But a trend that continues to grow — and is most unnerving — is the widening skills gap when it comes to what companies need and the people they're finding.

More than half of a subset of human resources managers who were surveyed said they have positions for which they cannot find qualified candidates. Forty-six percent said the positions go unfilled for three months or longer.

You might conclude that those are technology jobs. Not necessarily, but most do require information-technology skills.

Nearly half of employers said they plan to train hirees who don't have experience in their industry or field.

That's up 10 percentage points from last year. Twenty-six percent of the companies that responded are sending employees back to school to get advanced degrees. They are picking up all or part of the bill.

But many smaller firms can't afford to do that. So it's a career imperative to investigate the most up-to-date knowledge required in your field.

That's not all that leaves hiring managers begging for qualified candidates. Hiring managers consistently tell me that they can't find other crucial skills, abilities and attributes in candidates. Those include good judgment, maturity, common sense, problem solving, clear thinking, initiative and professionalism. (See my “Why I Didn't Hire You” blog at andreakay.com/blog for examples.)

Sure, if you're in IT, it's vital to be up on the latest and greatest software and cool gadgets. Or if you're in marketing, you're ahead of the game if you're well schooled in developing a social-media presence.

But give the impression — in person, by phone or in correspondence — that you're hard to get along with, can't think on your feet or are unprofessional, and you will get tagged as one of those “unqualified candidates.” If they sense you're inflexible, can't tackle problems or are irresponsible, you won't get far.

To be qualified, who you are is just as important as what you know.

Expect hiring managers to poke around for clues. More and more, employers conduct searches on potential employees by viewing social media and other affiliations.

Hiring may be on the slow and cautious side this year. But by beefing up your technical skills and tinkering with other all-important attributes, you can be one of the lucky ones.

Write to career consultant Andrea Kay in care of USA Today/Gannett, 7950 Jones Branch Drive, McLean, VA 22108. Email: andrea@andreakay.com.

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