As the person who makes initial contact with the client or visitor, receptionists act as the ambassador for a company or organisation. Their main role is to welcome visitors or clients, take details and assist them with initial problems or inquiries. Receptionists work behind a reception desk in the foyer or waiting area of a company, managing the telephone, taking messages and referring visitors or clients to the appropriate member of staff. They may also act as a security officer in smaller businesses or organisations.
While receptionists give administrative or secretarial support to the company, they are distinct from administrators because they focus on dealing with the specific needs of visitors, clients or patients rather than company employees. Working as a receptionist is an excellent way to develop administration or clerical skills, to build up contacts and to gain a knowledge of a particular industry.
Typical starting salaries are between £15,000 per year but with experience there is the potential for salaries to increase up to £24,000 depending on the nature of industry and the specifications of the job.
Typically, receptionists are responsible for:
- Answering the telephone
- Dealing with telephone enquiries or referring them to the relevant member of staff
- Greeting visitors and directing them to the appropriate person or staff member
- Answering face-to-face enquiries and providing information when required
- Issuing security passes and maintaining visitor records
- Keeping the waiting area (in a doctors or dentists surgery) tidy and providing reading material for waiting visitors
- Taking payments
- Receiving and sorting post
- Providing refreshments for visitors, patients or clients
- Sending emails and making telephone calls
- Booking rooms
- Maintaining patient records
- Organising travel arrangements
- Managing the switch board
- Organising meeting times/ meeting rooms
- Acting as the initial contact for interviewees
- Undertaking basic bookkeeping
Receptionists are not usually required to have academic qualifications, although GCSE in Maths and English is preferable. In certain industries (the media or the arts for example), receptionists may be required to have more qualifications (A levels or a degree) because jobs in those industries are high in demand. A secretarial qualification will always be a huge advantage for getting a receptionist job as will a qualification in IT or computing. More information on our receptionist training course can be found by clicking here.
Receptionists are required to have many different skills to allow them to meet the varying demands of visitors and colleagues. These include:
- A polite and courteous manner regardless of the situation
- The ability to deal calmly with difficult customers or visitors
- Excellent verbal and written communication skills
- The ability to keep calm under pressure
- Efficiency and excellent organisational skills
- The ability to balance conflicting demands
- A commitment to and knowledge of the organisation and its work
- Basic IT skills
- Word processing abilities
- The ability to work telecommunication systems (telephones, fax machines, switchboards etc)
- The ability to make people feel at ease
- The willingness to go the extra mile even at busy times
- The ability to work under own initiative
- Excellent interpersonal skills
- A smart, neat appearance
Receptionists usually work normal office hours, typically 9 to 5.30 from Monday to Friday. Depending on the nature of the company, this could increase during busy periods and receptionists may be required to undertake some weekend work. Working conditions for receptionists may not be physically demanding but they can be very stressful, requiring the receptionist to juggle varying demands at once.
Most employees value experience of dealing with the public in any capacity, as well as experience of working with computers or on the telephone. School leavers can undertake a receptionist training course which is a good way for people with few qualifications to gain the experience needed to be a receptionist.
Receptionists are required in most large offices, schools, medical surgeries, factories, solicitors, hospitals, hotels and hairdressers so there are plenty of places to find jobs although competition can be tough.
Depending on the nature of the organisation worked for, there are usually good opportunities for receptionists to progress. With experience, receptionists often progress to the role of administrator for secretary, supervisor, customer service manager or, in a medical surgery, the role of practice manager.