How much would you pay me to go get my MBA?  What’s it worth to you that I helped a previous employer install an ERP system, eight years ago?  How much cash would you cough up to have me come on board and see if there might perhaps be something, somewhere in your company that I might be able to help with?  Seriously, what’s your offer?

These questions sound crazy, I know, but they’re actually not all that far off from how many job hunters are marketing themselves these days.  One of the biggest mistakes the average job seeker makes, in fact, is to channel all of their energy into trying to get companies interested in their skills, education, experience, and qualifications.  What’s wrong with this approach?  When you stop and think about it, none of these items has even one penny of intrinsic value to the employer.  If you disagree with this, I’d urge you to read the above questions again and whip out your checkbook, since I’m dying to find somebody who will reimburse me for my college education and the laundry list of new skills I’ve acquired in these past few years as an entrepreneur!

In the real world, where jobs get won and lost, I’ve arrived at the unshakable belief that companies pay people not for their qualifications, but for the SOLUTIONS these qualifications will ostensibly allow them to realize on the employer’s behalf.  This is an extremely important distinction.  If you’re spending most of your time in the interview reciting your skills or telling war stories about your past, instead of selling your bright future, you may get treated to a lot of friendly head-nods and a heartwarming display of passive/aggressive behavior — but it’s highly unlikely you’ll bag the prize you’re really after: a job offer!

So rather than belabor this point, let me just challenge you with five exercises that will quickly determine how oriented (or not) you are to positioning yourself as an “expert-problem solver” out in the market:

1)  “Hi, my name is ____________ and the kinds of problems I’d love to solve for an organization are __________, ___________, and ___________.”

2)  “Hi, my name is ___________ and if you happen to hear anybody complaining about __________, ___________, or ___________, have them give me a call — those kinds of issues are right up my alley!”

3)  “Hi, my name is ___________ and the way my work generates positive ROI (Return On Investment) for employers is __________________.”

4)  “Hi, my name is ___________ and if I had suddenly been hit by a bus in my last job, and unable to work for a month, my previous employer would have really suffered in the areas of _________________.”

5)  “Hi, my name is ___________ and the challenges that companies really seem to be struggling with right now, related to my professional field, are __________, ___________, and ___________.”

How’d you do?  Was it easy to fill in the blanks or were you stumped a bit trying to figure out what to say?  If the latter, that’s a clear sign that you may have more homework to do in terms of identifying the specific, tangible results you can achieve for a company and making this your sales focus, going forward.  Fully-prepared job seekers, on the other hand, should be able to rattle these kinds of statements off like a machine gun!

[Editor’s Note: Just in case it’s unclear, PLEASE understand that the above five “templates” are merely practice drills, not recommended interviewing or networking scripts you should follow!  Especially #4.  People would think you had a screw loose…]