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Good Qualities of a Receptionist

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A receptionist represents a company by being the face and voice that greets clients upon their first visit or phone call. The receptionist's ability to create a good first impression is an important component of the business's overall success. Although receptionist duties can vary somewhat by employer and industry, there are common skills and qualities of a receptionist that are necessary for any job.

Communications Skills

Communication is at the heart of a receptionist's duties. She must be able to speak clearly to people on the phone and in person. She takes messages and relays them to the proper individual. She may give directions, answer questions and direct visitors or callers to another employee or department. A good receptionist has legible handwriting so notes and messages can be easily read.

It's also important to know the terminology of the field. Medical receptionist skills, for example, often include basic knowledge of medical procedures and terms used by insurance companies and pharmaceutical reps. A good receptionist knows enough about the business and its specialized vocabulary to be able to answer basic questions and to direct callers and visitors to the proper departments.

Ability to Be a Team Player

The receptionist serves as a link between customers and the employees who provide the desired services. Receptionists help customers and clients get what they want. They assist co-workers in a variety of ways, from making and taking phone calls to keeping appointment books and performing other routine office tasks. Receptionists often facilitate communications among their co-workers, too, helping to ensure the business runs as smoothly as possible.

Computer Literacy

Depending on the job, a receptionist may do much more than answer phones and greet clients.Receptionist duties may be include creating letters, memos, invoices, schedules and other kinds of documents and records. Most businesses today rely on electronic means of originating and maintaining documents. Receptionists should be proficient with standard word processing and spreadsheet software such as Microsoft Word and Excel. They should be capable of learning any specialized software a company may use for its administrative work.

Receptionists should also know how to operate standard office equipment. This includes multi-line telephones, copiers, fax machines and postage meters.

The Right Personality

Some qualities of a receptionist cannot be learned in school. Being a receptionist can be stressful; a good receptionist handles multiple tasks at once with calmness and efficiency. There might be several customers waiting in line for attention. A delivery driver might need a signature while you're juggling phone calls on multiple lines. One co-worker might be asking for messages at the same time another asks you to check an appointment schedule. A good receptionist is able to organize and prioritize tasks so they are accomplished correctly and in a timely fashion.

As a receptionist, you'll probably have access to confidential information about co-workers and clients. Both have the exception of a receptionist's loyalty and discretion in protecting private information.

An outgoing personality is a definite plus for a good receptionist. Depending on where you work, your day can be quite busy, with lots of interaction with customers and co-workers. It's important to be pleasant and business-like at all times, no matter what you're feeling inside or what kind of day you've had.

Work Environment

Receptionists usually sit at a desk in a reception area, waiting room or office. According to a recent survey by The Boston Globe, more than 90 percent of receptionists currently working are female. Because of the wide variety of industries and settings in which receptionists are needed, opportunities exist for full and part time work, during regular business hours and on evening, night, holiday and weekend schedules.

Salary and Job Outlook

The average salary for a receptionist is $34,800 per year, with a range that typically falls between $31,247 and $39,012. A number of factors can affect salary, including employer, geographic location, education, receptionist duties and years of experience.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracks data for most civilian occupations, the anticipated growth rate for receptionist positions is about 9 percent through 2026. That's as fast as average, compared to all other occupations.


Denise Dayton is a a freelance writer who specializes in business, education and technology. She has written for, Library Journal, The Searcher, Bureau of Education and Research, and corporate clients.

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