These days, it seems a phone interview is the inevitable first step in an interview process. It’s often overlooked, which could mean a missed opportunity for job seekers. When done correctly, a good phone interview can help make or break a candidate’s chances for moving on to the next step in the interview process.

The phone interview is normally conducted by a company’s human resources representative and lasts about 10-15 minutes. During that time, the HR representative is searching for clues that a job seeker is competent, qualified and can work within the salary range offered for the job. Below are a few tips to remember when preparing for a phone interview.

Prepare and schedule: Before getting on the phone, do your research on the position, the company and the person conducting the interview. Find a quiet location, preferably on a landline, with no distractions and no background noise. Even if you are used to having the television on as background noise, turn it off. You run the risk of sounding unprofessional with “Jeopardy” music playing in the background.

Create Your 30-second “Advertisement”: Most interviews start with the “Tell me about yourself” question. Prepare a brief 30-second statement about yourself and your professional career. Keep it professional (no personal information), and include pertinent positions in the last 10 years, your work specialties, expertise and any solid numbers you can give regarding your accomplishments at the jobs.

Practice Your “Advertisement”: After getting your statement together, practice by rehearsing it over and over until you have it memorized. A good tip is to leave yourself a voicemail with it. Look for your pace, annotations and “umms” and “ahhs”.

Closing the Deal and Follow Up: At the end of the phone interview, always say thank you and ask open-ended questions regarding the position, such as “What is the next step?” or “I am open next week if you want to meet with me.” Following the call, a hand-written note to the interviewer is ideal, but a nice email or LinkedIn message is also a way to end on a good note.