15 May, 2020
By Mike Simpson
If one person was the physical embodiment of a company, it wouldn’t be the product manager, marketing director, or even the CEO. Instead, that honor goes to one person: the receptionist.
In many ways, a receptionist is the organization’s handshake. When it comes to first impressions, they are the one making it. Why? Because a receptionist is typically the first person a visitor interacts with. Whether it’s their welcoming smile from behind the desk or the reassuring “How can I help you?” when they pick up the phone, it’s the receptionist that commonly makes first-contact for a company.
Plus, receptionists interact with absolutely everyone. When employees, vendors, clients, and anyone else comes through the front door or calls, the receptionist is there. If a person has anything to do with the company, you better bet that they’ll speak with the receptionist at some point; it’s guaranteed.
But, aside from saying hello to every person who comes along, what does a receptionist do? Are they more than a warm smile and a friendly voice guiding you toward another employee? You bet your behind they are.
Are you ready to take a look at the engaging and mysterious life of receptionists? Great! Let’s get started.
What Is a Receptionist?
First, let’s cover the basics, what a receptionist is, and what they aren’t. In many ways, a receptionist is the pinnacle of customer service. They focus on greeting and guiding customers or visitors, providing information, and creating a welcoming environment along the way.
But that isn’t all a receptionist does. Not by a longshot. Usually, they’re responsible for a range of administrative duties as well. Along with fielding calls and talking to visitors, they may schedule appointments, handle files, receive mail, and a lot more.
Now, you’ve probably noticed that receptionists do have some things in common with administrative assistants and executive assistants. Those roles do have some similar duties, including assisting visitors, managing paperwork, and handling schedules.
But, in many ways, these jobs are incredibly different. Mainly because of who they support. Receptionists tend to be highly public-facing and customer-focused; that’s just the name of the game. But that isn’t always the case with the duo of assistants.
Admin assistants typically support departments and act as a liaison between that group and the CEO. They are internally-focused, often working in the back-of-house.
Executive assistants usually support a single member of the leadership team, or maybe a small group of execs. Essentially, they are the right-hand person for C-suite professionals, striving to ensure CEOs, CIOs, CTOs, and similar leaders don’t have to sweat the small (and, at times, the medium and large) stuff.
Ultimately, while some of the duties of all of these roles overlap, the core functions are drastically different.
Receptionist’s Duties & Responsibilities
Alright, we’ve touched on this a little bit already. Now it’s time for a deep-dive into what a receptionist job description includes.
Receptionists duties can be vast and highly varied. Usually, that’s because their main focus is on customer service, but they also provide ad-hoc administrative support. And, per usual, every company may require something different from these professionals.
Above all else, receptionist responsibilities center on greeting and assisting visitors or customers. After all, “reception” is in the job title, so that shouldn’t be a surprise. Companies want these professionals to make that initial experience positive and welcoming, ensuring questions are answered properly, calls are directed correctly, and needs are addressed accordingly.
But most companies aren’t inundated by visitors every minute of every day. Downtime happens. And, when there’s a spare moment, they don’t want the receptionists kicked back and twiddling their thumbs. That’s just a waste.
So, instead of simply staring at the phone or door waiting for the next person who might need help to reach out, receptionists get to work. Here’s a look at just some of what a receptionist may need to handle:
- Greeting visitors or customers
- Maintaining visitor logs
- Handling inquiries
- Directing calls
- Taking and distributing messages
- Maintaining the cleanliness of the reception area
- Operating office equipment
- Managing and maintaining files
- Managing schedules and booking appointments
- Receiving mail and deliveries
- Distributing incoming mail and packages
- Taking supply inventories
- Reordering supplies as needed
In most cases, all of that can keep a receptionist pretty busy. Plus, they may have additional administrative duties, depending on what their workplace requires.
What Skills Do Receptionists Need?
Being a standout receptionist requires a particular set of skills. Which ones do you need? Well, that depends. Every job is a bit different, so hiring managers might have different priorities when choosing candidates. But you can usually figure out what they’re looking for relatively easily.
The receptionist job description in the vacancy announcement is overflowing with helpful hints. Typically, you’ll find must-haves that outline the technical capabilities they company values.
But, if you aren’t finding a clear list, don’t panic. Many receptionist jobs have similar requirements. Here are some of the most frequently requested hard skills:
- Multiline phone systems
- Computer operation
- Microsoft Office
- 35+ wpm typing speed
- Business writing
- Office equipment operation
Now, hard skills are just the tip of the iceberg. For receptionists, having the right soft skills is at least as important, if not more so. After all, interacting with people is a core part of the job. If you don’t have the ideal traits for that, you might not meet a company’s needs.
Most receptionist roles rely heavily on a few traits, so it’s wise to touch on them. Here are some soft skills that need a place on your resume:
Receptionist Training, Certification & Education
If you think being a receptionist sounds awesome, you’re probably wondering if you need a specific kind of education or training to land the job. Well, you’re in luck. Typically, the answer is no, but not always.
In most cases, hiring managers list a high school diploma as the educational requirement. However, some companies may look for more, like an Associate’s degree or a certificate of completion from a vocational school program. That’s especially true for some specialty environments, like medical clinics or law firms.
Otherwise, training or certifications are largely unnecessary. Anything you need to know is usually learned on the job.
Receptionist Salary Expectations
Alright, now onto one of the big questions; what does a receptionist salary look like? As with all jobs, it depends. But, if you find a position offering the median salary, you can make $30,050 a year. Not too shabby.
It’s also important to remember, as you gain experience, your earning potential rises. The top 10 percent of receptionists bring in near $43,400 annually. That’s pretty respectable.
Plus, if you land a full-time position, you may get access to valuable benefits. Medical, dental, retirement plans, vacation pay, and similar options could all be available, increasing the value of your total compensation package.
Additionally, you might be able to transition from a receptionist position into a higher paying one. For example, it could serve as a springboard toward an executive assistant role. In that position, the median pay comes in at $59,340 annually, and the top 10 percent bring in $89,310 a year.
What You Need to Know for Your Job Interview
We’ve already covered how to handle receptionist interview questions and answer in-depth. But, if you want some basics, here you go.
If you want to snag a receptionist job, you need to shine when you meet with the hiring manager. To make that happen, start by scouring the receptionist job description. Focus on the must-haves and any trait that’s repeated. Those reflect the company’s priorities, so you want to address your capabilities in those areas.
Also, take a look at the company’s website, especially the mission and values statements. Those little blurbs are chocked full of insights into the organization’s priorities and culture. Use that to your advantage.
When you face off against behavioral interview questions, the STAR Method and the Tailoring Method are your allies. With those, you can pivot an everyday answer into something really special. You’ll be tons more engaging, and that matters when you need to stand out.
Putting It All Together
Receptionists, in many ways, are the real face of the organization. If you think the receptionist job description is just what you’re looking for, great! Use the information above to help you take your career in that direction. If you do, you might be surprised at how quickly your professional goal can become a reality.
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Check out our other “job description articles” if you’re exploring career options: