Looking for a job? Study Shakespeare

Soaring unemployment has plenty of people wondering how to improve their odds in today's ultra-competitive job market -- and do something constructive with all of their extra free time.

Laid-off workers who think that taking the latest computer training course or getting a fancy new certification in marketing will help win over prospective employers are in for a surprise, however. While such courses can indeed prove valuable, the truth is employers would much rather hire someone who excels at reading, writing and speaking effectively.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers' Job Outlook 2009 report found that among the traits that employers want the most in a job candidate, communication skills top the list (other prized attributes include a strong work ethic, ability to work in a team, and initiative).

Evidently, however, such skills are hard to come by. The U.S. Department of Education's 2003 Assessment of Adult Literacy (the most recent study to be conducted) found that less than one-third of college graduates are "proficient" in the three measures of literacy.