The reasons behind America's yawning job gap are numerous. Beyond increases in productivity, which have reduced the number of workers needed to produce goods and services, the recent recession has made employers reluctant to hire until they're sure the economy is on solid footing.
Adding to job seekers' frustration is that employers today are pickier than ever, requiring skills and talents their businesses demand but seemingly fewer workers possess.
But that doesn't mean there's little hope for the long-term unemployed or those looking to get out of a dead-end job. Researchers at the University of California San Diego have identified three factors they say enable job applicants to get an edge in their job search and help them succeed in their careers.
Citing a dozen years of research into employer preferences, sociologist Mary Walshok and two colleagues found that employers consistently seek all three factors when considering applicants, though many job seekers aren't aware of the process. The researchers detailed their findings in the new book, "Closing America's Job Gap," published earlier this year.
Factor 1: Ability to Learn
Chief among the factors, the study found, was a need for applicants to prove they have the necessary knowledge, training and experience to perform a job or at least learn how to do it.
"Employers perceived that the nimbleness of their organization and the rapidly changing marketplace required them to have employees who could adapt and change with the marketplace," Walshok says. Though direct experience is relevant, it wasn't viewed as important as a proven ability to adapt and perform in new circumstances.
Factor 2: Dependability
Secondly, the study findings showed that employers wanted evidence that potential employees be counted on to show up to work daily and be ready to perform their duties. Job seekers rarely address this concern during the interview, failing to note past attendance records or recently completed training or certification that provide employers with insight into potential employees' dependability.
Employers are aware that illness and other concerns can cause attendance issues that can be costly through lost productivity and increased workloads on other workers. Businesses seek to combat the known costs of poor attendance by hiring prospects with great attendance records, the research says.
Factor 3: Punctuality
Lastly, employers want to know that potential employees will be on time. Habitual lateness, even for meetings, was viewed as disrespectful, the study found. To that end, job seekers needed to demonstrate to potential employers a track record of being on time.
"Employers in the U.S. expect and want their employees to be on time, despite what other cultures and traditions may dictate," Walshok says. "Chronic lateness has been shown to cost employers billions of dollars."
Related Stories from CNN Money