What You Need to Know to Hire a Receptionist
This article is part of a larger series on Hiring.
A receptionist for your company should have a friendly and professional demeanor and the ability to handle phone calls, make appointments, and perform other administrative tasks. The best receptionists help keep your office running smoothly and clients satisfied.
Before you hire a receptionist, you should consider the type of receptionist you need, including in-house vs remote/virtual, and the associated costs. Then you’ll want to gather qualifications for your job description, start your search, and interview candidates before selecting the best receptionist for your needs.
Types of Receptionists
Receptionists typically coordinate the smooth flow of visitors and incoming phone calls while representing your company’s culture. Most specifically, they:
- Greet people as they walk in
- Answer phone calls
- Direct the person to the employee best able to help them
- Maintain employee and department directories
- Operate the telecommunications system
- Keep a clean and safe reception area
- Handle documentation of team actions, irregularities, and needs
- Process bills
- Answer client questions
- Handle other duties like making announcements on behalf of the company to employees or sending out notices to customers
However, when hiring a receptionist, you may require skills relevant to a certain industry or job level. For example, a medical receptionist should be adept in answering patient questions, dealing with insurance, and scheduling appointments, while an executive receptionist may need strong project management and computer/technology skills. Additionally, you may need a more specific type of receptionist or front desk role, such as:
- Office coordinator: In addition to receptionist duties, office coordinators may handle bookkeeping, payroll preparation, and supply ordering.
- Hotel front desk associate: Hotel desk associates are also in charge of assigning rooms, handling guest complaints, and checking out guests (including processing payments).
- Administrative assistant: The most basic administrative assistant handles receptionist duties and specific tasks for the boss or other staff members, like arranging travel, scheduling appointments, and managing correspondence.
In-house vs Remote/Virtual Receptionist
If your business gets a lot of foot traffic or hosts frequent office appointments, then an in-house receptionist is a must. Virtual receptionists are great for fielding after-hours calls or for companies that work off-site (like HVAC installers or landscapers). If you need a receptionist infrequently, such as during busy periods or when you need to concentrate on a project, a virtual receptionist may fit the bill. This is also a good option when you don’t have enough hours to justify hiring even a part-time employee. Abby Connect offers live 24-hour virtual receptionists, complete with a dedicated team trained on your business. From their mobile app, you can access all logs and recordings, mark yourself as unavailable, route numbers to others, and even text from your business number. With no contracts or credit cards, get started with your 14-day free trial today.
Best for foot traffic/office appointments
Filing, supply closet, maintaining the reception area
If you only need a receptionist in a crunch, such as in a busy season or to cover an absence, consider using a temp agency. This can also be a good place to find a receptionist you may eventually want to hire full time.
How Much Does a Receptionist Make?
According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for a receptionist in 2021 was $29,500, or $14.18 per hour. However, the wage depends greatly on the industry. Receptionists in the medical field can command as much as $40.60 an hour, for example.
Virtual receptionists earn $13.84 an hour per ZipRecruiter. However, if you hire your receptionist through a service, your fee may be different. For example, you may pay per month by time; rates can run from $1 to $2 per minute, for example, for phone-answering-based services and $15 to $40 per hour for more dedicated virtual receptionists.
Full-time employees will also incur expenses for benefits and tax withholdings. You don’t need to pay those with part-time, freelance, or receptionists hired through a service.
Use a salary comparison tool to help determine your compa ratio, or how competitive your proposed salary is in the market.
What Qualifications Should a Receptionist Have?
More than anything, receptionists should be strong in soft skills like communication and staying cool in stressful situations. Being able to handle a phone system and basic computer programs is also important. In general, include the following in your job description:
- Telephone skills
- Able to listen and communicate clearly
- Customer service skills
- Polite and professional
- Ability to handle pressure
- Supply management
- Familiarity with word processing programs (Microsoft Office), email, scheduling software (if you use it)
A college education is not necessary for every receptionist position—a local repair shop, for example, may do very well with a friendly high-school grad who is eager to learn. Industries that are more technical and where people expect immediate answers, such as medical offices, may want candidates with advanced degrees or specific certifications.
Receptionists are usually entry-level positions, although those working with executives or in large companies may need more experience and qualifications.
Where to Look for a Receptionist
Hiring a receptionist is not unlike hiring for other company roles. For in-person positions, it is always good to look locally. Here are some suggestions:
- Contact local employment agencies
- Contact college or high school career centers
- Post on job boards or local want-ads
- Ask friends or employees for recommendations
- Hire internally
- Post on social media
Not every job board costs money. We found 27 free job board sites that are great places to find your next great hire.
For virtual receptionists, you can look for services that offer virtual assistants on a part-time basis. They usually charge monthly fees for a certain number of minutes or hours. Different plans get you different tasks, from answering the phone to scheduling, event registration, and other secretarial tasks that can be done remotely.
Freelancers can be hired for remote or in-house work. In addition to the local means listed above, you can check with freelance and gig sites like Upwork.
What Interview Questions to Ask a Receptionist
When interviewing for a receptionist, communication skills are paramount. Therefore, in addition to standard questions about experience, it’s good to ask about specific scenarios.
- Tell me about a time you had to manage an upset customer. How did you handle it?
- A person calls demanding to speak to someone who cannot talk at that time. What do you say? What if they insist?
- A customer complains to you about someone in the office. They ask you to keep it confidential. What do you do?
- How would you describe the ideal office atmosphere?
- Receptionists often have downtime when there are no immediate business needs or clients in the office. What do you do with that time?
- You are asked to transfer a call and accidentally hang up on the customer. What do you do?
A receptionist can make it easier for you to concentrate on your job without the interruption of greeting visitors or answering phones. Even more, they project your company’s culture to every customer they contact; with a friendly demeanor and efficient work ethic, they can make a great first impression that will result in goodwill and repeat customers.