A receptionist is often a customer's first point of contact when dealing with a business. It's important for the company that they choose the right person to represent them in this role. This ensures that they can provide a thorough and professional customer experience.

Whether you're still applying to receptionist jobs or are preparing for an interview, this article will provide all the information you need to impress your potential employer.

Information for receptionist candidates.

A good receptionist needs excellent communication skills. Their daily duties may include dealing with customers, clients, and other agencies face to face, over the telephone, via email or letters. A successful receptionist needs to be well organised and will often be required to multi-task and stay calm under pressure.

They may sometimes be required to deal with complaints and irate customers. They may also be required to keep records and use specific telecommunication and information systems.

As with all job interviews, the level of preparation is absolutely vital. You should be prepared to answer some typical questions, as well as the odd unexpected one, and to ask relevant questions of your own.

Read the 10 most common interview questions.

Our recruiters in the sales, marketing and customer services sectors outline their top interview prep tip in the video below:

Receptionist job interview questions.

In order to help candidates throughout the preparation process, we gathered commonly asked interview questions for receptionist candidates. Most questions can be broken down into experience-based questions, skills-based questions, or general questions:

Experience-based interview questions.

Tell us about previous work experience as a receptionist or other experience that could be relevant.

Explain any previous receptionist work in detail, including who you worked with, how long for, your main responsibilities, and whether you greeted clients in your role. If you have not worked as a receptionist before, explain any telephone work or customer service roles you have performed, and highlight relevant skills.

What were your primary responsibilities?

Go into detail about your main responsibilities, including daily tasks as well as ad hoc duties. If you worked in a high volume environment, also mention this.

How did you organise your schedule?

As a receptionist, your schedule is ultimately dictated by the flow of visitors through company doors. Talk about how you always create a flexible schedule so that you can combine important tasks with greeting customers and visitors.

How many people did you interact with during an average day?

You should have a good idea of the number. Include telephone calls, external visitors and requests from managers. Often a receptionist will also help with meetings and provide some secretarial and office assistance. Always be honest.

How did you deal with exceptionally busy times?

Ideally, you will have had experience and can talk about how you cope with busy times. Interviewers want to hear how you would record each missed call and ensure that calls are returned whenever possible and that you keep a thorough written record to ensure that nothing is forgotten.

What software are you comfortable with when it comes to office documentation and office administration?

Say that you are comfortable with Microsoft Office applications such as Word and Excel and mention any specific software products you have used for managing diaries and calendars. Enquire what systems they have in place and, if you are invited for a second interview, you can then do some research into the specific system to demonstrate that you are familiar with it. 

Did you follow any security protocols? 

Hopefully, you do. Explain what protocols are used in your current or previous role, such as checking ID cards for employees and taking down details of visitors and logging them in and out of the building.

If someone is late for their appointment, what do you do?

You should inform the person who they are meeting so that they are aware of the delay. If a meeting room is booked, check to see if the booking can be extended and ensure that any other appointments that clash can be managed.

How did you handle sensitive or confidential information?

For this, you just have to say that you handle it with integrity, and respect the privacy and sensitivity of the information with which you are being entrusted.

Give an instance when you were required to multitask?

As a secretary, multitasking is something you will be doing most of the time. Also, mention, however, that it is more important to be organised in order to ensure that every task is completed accurately and on time than it is to attempt too many things at a time.

Tell us about a time when you had to deal with an angry or upset individual?

Explain how you maintained a calm and professional manner and were always polite with the individual and reassured them that you would do your utmost to ensure that their problems are resolved. Describe how you use your training to take control of the situation.

Skills-based interview questions

What do you feel is the most important skill that is required of a receptionist?

Excellent organisational skills are vital, along with a positive and friendly attitude at all times. A receptionist is often the first contact a person makes with a company, so it is vital to give a great first impression. Be professional and polite at all times.

Do you have experience working with multi-line phones?

It is very likely that you will be asked this and hopefully, you have had some experience. If not, do some research so that you can demonstrate that you have a good knowledge of these types of phones. Ideally, get some training before the interview.

Which computer/IT/telecommunications systems are you familiar with?

Talk about all those that you are familiar with, including Windows products such as Word, Access, Excel, and PowerPoint. If you have used switchboards, explain which products and say how much experience you have with them.

What is your typing speed and error level?

You should know this, so give them the answer. Talk about any courses taken, either professional courses or self-study courses, and explain how they improved your skills. Explain also that you always proofread your typing.

What makes you suitable for this particular role?

Ideally, provide an answer that is honest, saying that you are keen to take on a new challenge and that you feel that this will be a great company to work for.

General interview questions would-be receptionists may face:

  • what are your weaknesses?
  • describe yourself professionally in a few words?
  • what are your reasons for leaving your previous/present job?
  • what is your favourite aspect of being a receptionist?
  • how do you remain abreast of new developments in technology?
  • who else have you applied to/got interviews with?   
  • have you got any questions?
  • why should you get this job?
  • how do you feel if tasks are left unfinished at the end of the day?

Scenario interview questions

What is your troubleshooting process?

Would you describe yourself as a problem solver? If so, why? Can you give an example?

If you've studied the questions and answers above to prepare, you'll stand a very good chance of impressing in your interview. For more information on careers options, jobs, interviews and more, check out our career hub.