Three female and one male working professionals in an office setting

A receptionist is more than someone who greets people coming into the office or answering the phone. This individual is usually the first person a visitor to your office comes into contact with.

Receptionists represent a company’s DNA and brand

How receptionists manage the reception would create an impression for walk-in visitors and customers who step into your front office for the first time.

On top of that, a receptionist is likely to be the person who will receive job applicants at the office for their job interviews. He or she is, therefore, someone that a candidate will interact with and get an impression of a company’s culture.

Therefore, this role, which appears seemingly simple, becomes much more than a front desk person, and definitely, more than administrative support. Obviously, administrative tasks are still important to keep office processes moving but it is crucial to note that this individual also serves as the company ambassador.

Who will make a great receptionist?

First and foremost, a receptionist needs to be a people person. He or she will interact with a lot of people throughout the day and they would range from internal staff, and senior stakeholders to job seekers, courier personnel, visitors, customers, and clients.

Therefore, interpersonal and communication skills are crucial for these front-desk professionals. The ability to communicate clearly and concisely is a major advantage, and good listeners will always make good receptionists.

It can be challenging for those who are more introverted to take on such a position, as receptionists constantly need to engage with people either in person, virtually, or on the phone, and those who do not like to engage with people may become emotionally worn out. One needs to have great interpersonal skills and an affinity for building good working relationships to succeed as a receptionist.

The receptionist’s duties, tasks, and responsibilities are things that an interested party can pick up. However, a person’s attitude and personality are very much inane and will be challenging to change or adjust.

Related: What does it take to be a successful HR Assistant?

A receptionist’s responsibilities

An office receptionist must be organised, meticulous, and have excellent communication skills.

Administrative duties: This role is required to perform administrative duties such as filing, data entry, monitoring deliveries, assisting new joiners on their first day, forwarding incoming phone calls, answering phone calls, taking messages, sorting mail, directing visitors, faxing, and assisting the office manager with office management tasks, such as ordering coffee for visitors or food for an internal office party.

General computer knowledge: This job also requires the individual to be proficient in computer-based spreadsheets and word-processing software. They need to have some basic computer hardware knowledge and skills, as they very often need to help set up computers for new joiners or projectors for office presentations.

Being discreet: Aside from administrative duties, a great receptionist has to be professional and trustworthy.  There will often be times when the receptionist will handle sensitive information and difficult situations, so discretion will be an absolute must.

Multi-tasking: The work requires a receptionist to be a multi-tasker. he or she needs to be focused (read: needs to remember the names of all employees in the office), or it would be easy to lose control of the day. This person should also have a good working knowledge of an organisation’s goods, services, and systems.

What are the characteristics of an accomplished receptionist?

The appropriate person for the position needs to be customer oriented. They must have great soft skills and empathy. Customers can be difficult, and one bad experience could cause them to avoid your organisation for years. There is a need to be friendly yet firm, even in stressful situations.

Depending on the industry, being empathetic and caring can be key to a receptionist’s role if he or she is working in a medical clinic. Excellent customer service comes into play and how a receptionist takes care of their visitors can play an important role in returning business. For instance, a receptionist at a gynaecology clinic where patients may sometimes face sad news.

Excellent time management is vital, as is an accomplished telephone manner. Other necessary characteristics that might not necessarily be on the job description include having a good emotional IQ and being warm, friendly, helpful, and highly approachable.

What does a receptionist do on a daily basis?

Although there will be some very clearly defined daily tasks for a receptionist, it's important to see this as a role that can require a number of somewhat diverse duties.

Receptionist work can include arranging meetings, setting appointments, managing the calendars of senior stakeholders, and keeping records. There may also be a need to make travel arrangements such as flights, taxis, and hire cars for senior-level employees. Keeping the lobby area tidy is important, and there could be a requirement to provide refreshments for visitors.

In all administrative tasks that come under the receptionist’s remit, discretion and sensitivity are of importance. In medical and dental facilities, a receptionist will need to be skilled at handling patient records, handling important telephone calls for the practice, and the like.

Depending on the size of the company, a receptionist may take on more office management responsibilities too, such as taking stock of office stationery and pantry supplies, and managing the cleaning staff.

For most roles, normal office hours will apply.

What is the career path of a receptionist?

Depending on the nature of the organisation, receptionists can often progress on to other roles, such as administrative assistant, secretary, supervisor, customer service representative, personal assistant, and office manager.

In some organisations, there could be opportunities to study for NVQs, diplomas, and other formal qualifications, in the process helping with the career path. Reception desks can be the springboard for a highly rewarding journey.

Gaining experience as a receptionist in any business organisation can open the door for similar roles elsewhere. It’s often the case that the skills you acquire along the way can be easily transferred from sector to sector.

In some cases, an experienced receptionist will have the ability to smoothly transfer into a sales role, customer service, or perhaps a job in the hospitality industry, in part because of the skills they have displayed when dealing with customers, clients, staff, and visitors in their previous capacity.

Ready for your next career step? Check out these receptionist roles in Hong Kong, or submit your CV now.