6 Attributes to Look for in a Great Receptionist

By Robert Half on February 22, 2019 at 2:00pm

Top candidates don't stay in the job market for long, which makes filling the job of a receptionist tough. As a result, it's important to identify the qualities you're looking for in a receptionist before you start your search for the perfect person to be what could be your company's initial point of contact.

By using very clear criteria, hiring managers can identify the right prospect faster and act more quickly to avoid losing a great receptionist to competing job offers. According to the annual Salary Guide from Robert Half, companies with an efficient hiring process like this have a better chance of landing highly skilled job seekers.

The job of a receptionist

What are the typical duties of a receptionist? Well, they can vary from workplace to workplace, but generally speaking, receptionists handle the following:

  • Greeting visitors and accepting deliveries
  • Handling incoming calls and operating a switchboard
  • Maintaining office directories
  • Assisting other administrative staff with overflow work, including word processing, data entry and research

Considering this range of important duties, you want someone who can make an immediate impact, has a track record of showing initiative, is willing to collaborate, and possesses the ideal balance of experience and potential for future advancement.

As you make your hiring criteria more specific, be sure you include the following six traits as you look to fill the job of a receptionist:

1. Effective communication

Naturally, a receptionist should have excellent verbal communication skills. Active listening and great customer service skills also are a must. A talented receptionist can connect callers and visitors with the right employees, as well as handle basic customer service problems and requests adeptly.

Find out more about in-demand technical skills for administrative professionals.

2. Professionalism

As the first person your customers, visitors and future employees encounter, the receptionist needs to make a good first impression. You want someone on the front lines who has a professional appearance and attitude. So consider each candidate's polish and poise during the interview process.

3. Interpersonal aplomb

Good interpersonal skills go beyond basic communication abilities. Look for a candidate who collaborates easily, can give and receive criticism gracefully, and rises above petty office politics. Soft skills like friendliness and likability are especially important for the receptionist role.

Today's administrative professional must juggle multiple demands. Read more on this topic in our Office of the Future report with International Association of Administrative Professionals.

4. Multitasking capabilities

Receptionists have multiple responsibilities, which they must often juggle simultaneously. These could include handling incoming calls, screening callers and managing call traffic while running a busy reception area. Receptionists might also assist other administrative staff with general work overflow — or help with special projects that require word processing, data entry and online research. So your receptionist needs to be adept at managing multiple tasks without getting flustered.

During the interview, ask candidates how they prioritize several tasks throughout the day. Look for clues that they're organized, calm, detail-oriented and responsible about tying up loose ends.

5. Organizational abilities

Organized people develop processes to keep them on track, even when they encounter the unexpected. Great receptionists show a knack and enthusiasm for organization. They can find files and phone numbers at a moment's notice, and maintain a tidy work area. To assess organizational skills, ask candidates to explain a filing system they implemented or how they prefer to set up calendars and contacts.

6. Technical prowess

Any receptionist should be comfortable using phone systems, copiers and printers. And the more experience they have, the better. Word processing skills are a must, while familiarity with Excel, desktop publishing, social media or industry-specific software can be an asset. If special technical skills are required for the role, make sure the candidate is a good match.

Interview receptionist candidates

Once you've outlined the duties of a receptionist and you're ready to hire, we can help make the process easier. See profiles of skilled receptionist candidates in your area using our online database. Tell us who catches your eye, and we can arrange an interview or placement ASAP.

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