Most businesses employ a receptionist, someone who sits on the front line, spinning multiple plates as they interact with visitors, and works diligently to keep the office organised and efficient. These people need to be well organised in the way they work and - crucially – possess excellent communication skills to be successful.

The best receptionists enjoy interacting with everyone involved in the business, from the CEO, right through to the other employees and customers. This article will explain exactly what receptionist jobs usually consist of, and provide tips to help those interested in this type of work to secure a position.

Key skills
Key skills needed by receptionists include the following:

• Good telephone manner – for handling both incoming and outgoing calls.
• Administration – for note taking and record keeping.
• People skills – for greeting visitors and putting people at ease.
• Basic I.T. competence, for handling communications systems.

A receptionist is the face of the business; the first person people see when they walk through the door, so it’s vital that they make a friendly impression. A naturally positive, upbeat personality is a big help in this situation, though it’s also important to know when to be quiet and sympathetic if helping somebody with a problem that is causing distress.

No matter how talented they are, receptionists will never be able to deal with everything directly. It’s their job to direct people to those who can, even when those people prove difficult to find. Perseverance is a major asset.

Daily tasks of a receptionist

The day-to-day roles receptionists fulfil obviously vary greatly depending on the company they are working for, and the specific requirements of that business environment. In general, however, the receptionist will be required to answer the phones, greet guests and manage multiple admin duties. These can include tasks such as filing, attendance recording, and minor budgeting duties. Often the receptionist is the person who fills in when others are absent or have difficulty with particular tasks. A receptionist who proves competent at lots of different tasks can quickly become indispensible to a business.

The most successful receptionists tend to have a bright, positive outlook, and make an effort to ensure that their positivity rubs off on others in the workplace. They also need to be good judges of character, however, and to be alert to the arrival of potential troublemakers. Often they are responsible for the security of the premises, which doesn’t mean having to deal with risky situations directly but does mean being ready to summon help if necessary. In some cases they will also be responsible for opening up the business premises in the morning and locking them again at the end of the working day.

Variations on the role
There are many situations in which familiarity with particular areas of business can give receptionists access to more interesting (and often more lucrative) positions. Medical receptionists, for instance, need to be able to assess and prioritise people calling or arriving at clinics, identifying potential emergency cases that may need to be dealt with quickly. Legal receptionists often contribute to the smooth running of the businesses they work for by filtering out would-be clients whose claims are completely invalid. Colleges and universities often have receptionists with relevant academic backgrounds in each department so that they are better able to assess what students and visitors need.

Employer perspective 
Employers, in particular, understand that their receptionists can be the glue that holds an office together as well as providing a first impression of the company to external parties who visit or call into the office. For this reason, managers know that employing someone who embodies the company’s values, and who is not going to discourage potential business partners or customers, is vital.

Salary and hours
New receptionists usually start at around £12,000 per annum but salaries can rise as high as £25,000 for those with extensive experience, and experienced receptionists are in high demand. In most cases hours are nine to five but in some cases shift work is available in offices open longer hours, and there are evening positions available in arts and sports venues. There are also a good many part time positions available in the profession, so it’s a career that can be fitted around a changing life.

Good GCSEs and an I.T. qualification are all that’s usually needed to get a job as a receptionist, but an NVQ or SVQ in customer service or business and administration can increase the chance of securing one of the best positions.

Growth potential
The positions can vary quite considerably, with receptionists at smaller companies sometimes having more responsibilities than those at larger ones, and effectively having to act as a PA for their manager, helping to schedule meetings, taking minutes and drafting communications on their behalf. 

At larger companies, there is likely to be a larger administrative team, comprising secretaries and office administrators. This means that the receptionist can focus solely on greeting and accommodating the many guests who visit the company’s offices. 

To progress to better paid positions, and new opportunities, receptionists often find they have to move companies or switch their line of work slightly. For example, a successful receptionist may progress to become a high level executive's PA. Receptionists require a wide range of skills, and can greatly increase their value to the company they work for by going out of their way to acquire useful new skills and qualifications. As an example, learning shorthand, or taking an advanced IT course can quickly turn a receptionist into a pivotal member of staff, and dramatically improve their versatility. Employers are always on the lookout for employees who can show this level of hunger for professional development. 

Most companies only employ one or two receptionists, so straightforward promotions are not usually possible in this line of work. 

Using a recruiter 
Anyone who is interested in receptionist roles should consult a recruitment company to help them understand the variety of positions available, how they differ, and which ones are most suitable for their specific skills and level of experience.