Your phone rings. You answer, and the caller says hello, without identifying herself. Yet immediately you recognize her voice--even though you haven't spoken with her in more than ten years. How are you able to do that? There's no mystery here, for voices are highly distinct and distinguishable, sort of our signature in sound. Your voice is you.

That being the case, you'll want to make the most of your voice, especially when you get past all the hurdles and sit down for a job interview. Here are a dozen steps for putting your best voice forward with that prospective

1. Before your interview, be kind to your vocal chords by avoiding cold water, which constricts your speaking mechanism. To quench your thirst, go with a warm or lukewarm liquid. And stay away from liquids for the last two or three minutes prior to your speech, to avoid getting choked temporarily by swallowing the wrong way. On that point, swallowing your liquid in larger quantities is safer than sipping.

2. Be fluent. Let your words display a continuing flow, without too many unnecessary pauses when you appear to be searching for the next word. That mannerism distracts the interviewer, who might think you have forgotten something—or don’t know it at all..

3. Speak in your regular conversational tone. No need to sound like a broadcaster, because you aren't one. Your interviewer wants to think that a real person is speaking with her personally, as an individual.

4. Try speaking with a faster rate. Your interviewer will understand you when you speak rapidly, because our minds can absorb words two or three times faster than the normal speaking rate. Also, think about the conversationalists you consider the most dynamic ones. Aren't they rapid- fire? Usually, yes. A word of caution: You don't have to exaggerate as much as the used car salesmen on TV. Work toward achieving a revved up pace that doesn't smack of artificiality.

5. At the same time, give your interviewer a change of pace—a “breather”-- by altering your rate. To emphasize your most meaningful points, such as summarizing your qualifications, apply your vocal brakes.

6. Enunciate clearly. We lose listeners when they wonder, What was that she just said? Pronounce your words so the HR executive will understand them immediately. Here again, though, avoid extremes. Speak clearly, yes-- but not like a programmed robot.

7. Maintain a pleasant volume level. The ideal volume allows the interviewer to hear you plainly, without blasting her ear drums. Just as you vary your rate occasionally, vary your volume to give your listener a change.

8. To understand vocal pitch, think of a music scale. As you know, there are high notes, middle range notes, and low notes. In speaking, the term monotone implies that the speaker hovers around one narrow range. Monotones put listeners to sleep, which you don't want to do. Move up and down the speaking scale without slipping into a singsong pattern.

9. Speak from well within yourself. You produce highly attractive vocal tones when you breathe regularly, generating sounds from your diaphragm. Shallow sounds that emerge from the throat might sound tinny and weak.

10. Pause occasionally. My college speech professor advised students to leave out everything but the pauses. Remember that a pause never seems as long to the interviewer as it does to you, assuming that you still look like you are in control. Pauses help you emphasize certain points, give your interviewer a couple of seconds of mental rest, and bring in the variety we have called for with rate and volume.

11. Analyze your vocal quality with every opportunity you can create. Record yourself privately and listen afterward. You don't have to use expensive, fancy equipment. Simulate answering some of the questions you anticipate in an upcoming interview.

Of course, the most effective way to analyze your vocal quality is to enlist the services of a speech coach. Your speech coach will give you objective feedback, telling you what needs attention, and offering specific steps for improvement. Through the magic of the Internet, you can work with a speech coach many miles away when you can't find one locally.

12. Use your own voice, without imitating anyone else's. I like the way Roger Ailes, Chairman of Fox Broadcasting, put this: Nobody can play you as well as you can.”