Receptionist Jobs and Careers
In many organisations, the receptionist is the first point of contact for visitors and this gives them a unique responsibility - that of creating the all-important first impression.
In return, they are frequently isolated from fellow employees and, unless they are working as part of a team (as in a hotel) have more contact with visitors than anybody else.
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Receptionists usually sit at the front desk in the foyer, which is often the smartest area of the building. Primarily tasked with greeting visitors, the receptionist is expected to remain calm, courteous and professional at all times, whatever the behaviour of the visitor.
The majority of receptionist roles are employed in corporate offices, financial or legal offices, medical and dental establishments, hotels, hairdressers and beauty salons, leisure establishments and anywhere there is a 'front of house' to the organisation.
The duties of receptionists vary from one organisation to another, with the exact mix of duties depending on the type of company or organisation, as well as its size. They may consist of some or all of the following.
- Greeting visitors and alerting the relevant staff members as to their arrival.
- Maintaining records of visitors to the building, and issuing and collecting visitors' passes.
- Handling enquiries from members of the public who enter the building, providing information about the organisation.
- Operating the telephone switchboard, or answering the telephone and forwarding calls to relevant staff members, or taking messages.
- Sorting mail first thing in the morning and receiving packages delivered by couriers or freight companies.
- Assisting security by monitoring access to the building.
- Depending on the organisation, collecting preliminary information from those arriving for appointments (e.g. medical establishments).
- Making appointments for clients at the front desk.
- Providing cashier services for clients at the end of appointments.
- Undertaking routine administrative tasks, such as photocopying, word processing, filing, etc.
Would a Receptionist Job Suit You?
The essence of being a successful receptionist is a combination of an unflappable disposition, an interest in and liking for working with people, and the ability to multitask. Secretarial or administrative skills alone do not equip someone for this role, but as technology is used more in this role, a mixture of these skills is advantageous.
- 'People skills' are vital. Being able to respond to enquiries or, as importantly, to deflect unreasonable demands from visitors without ever losing a calm professional manner is essential. Being able to verbally communicate information clearly is also a positive attribute required for this job.
- The administrative aspects of the work require keyboard skills and sometimes shorthand and dictation skills too.
- Awareness of and ability to use software programs is essential. Being able to work on different types of computer, or just one (Mac, or PC with Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7), particular functions of different office programs (creating spreadsheets, databases, presentations, etc) and different kinds of office equipment.
- Training in and experience of using switchboard and call management systems is essential as this is part of the role.
- Personal qualities include motivation and a professional approach. Being able to work in a situation where you may not have colleagues alongside you is valuable.
- Excellent self-presentation and high standards of grooming are essential.
- Time management skills are helpful, as you may often be juggling administrative tasks with greeting and aiding visitors at the front desk.
- In certain roles, out-of-office hours working is required, such as in the hospitality and leisure industries.
- Financial administration skills are needed where the role involves accepting payments, for instance when consolidating accounts overnight in hotel reception/administration roles ("night auditing").
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Training for Reception Jobs
There are numerous private organisations offering training to those pursuing administration careers, whether secretarial or reception-based.
Specialist sectors often offer their own bespoke training. For example, health administration terminology and administration training for receptionists is provided by the British Society of Medical Secretaries and Administrators (BSMSA) and the Association of Medical Secretaries, Practice Managers, Administrators & Receptionists (AMSPAR).
Other specialist training exists for legal roles, hotel and hospitality roles, veterinary receptionist roles, etc. National apprenticeships in the UK offer copious positions, where apprentices can undertake study towards NVQs (SVQs) while gaining hands-on experience in paid positions.
For administrative NVQ training, see:
The Office Job offers general information on receptionist positions.
Front of House magazine's website contains articles and information on training for receptionists - www.frontrecruitment.co.uk/frontofhousemagazine/
Reception Jobs Prospects
The dual nature of the role means that many people who start as receptionists continue to administrative roles, including customer service, secretary, administrative or personal assistant, or executive assistant. Being in a key central position, receptionists are well-positioned to learn much about their organisation, as well as to become familiar with those who work in all areas of it.
The number of positions available is expected to rise at an above-average rate in coming years. This is due to the rise in service industries, particularly medical offices, legal firms, consulting firms and temporary agencies. This same rise will see existing receptionists moving to other roles in organisations, creating more receptionist vacancies.
Employment prospects are going to remain positive for those who combine office skills with excellent interpersonal skills and self-presentation.
Receptionist Jobs Sites
Receptionist recruitment agencies (permanent and temporary positions):
The Guardian's jobs pages also features receptionist vacancies:
Jobs pages are on these websites:
Apprenticeship positions can be located here: