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Front Desk Receptionist Duties

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She might look friendly and harmless, but a front desk receptionist is actually the modern-day equivalent of the knights that once defended castles from enemies. The receptionist makes certain that only certain people get access to the business's other employees and (politely) turns away the rest. Of course, that's only one part of a typical front desk clerk's job duties. These workers juggle a ton of tasks in most workplaces, providing invaluable support that keeps a business running.

What Does a Front Desk Clerk Do?

Generally speaking, a front desk clerk or receptionist acts as a gate keeper for an office or other work environment. Part of this person's job description usually involves greeting visitors, from delivery people to job applicants to corporate higher-ups. The receptionist is the first person a visitor sees, so she represents the company and is expected to warmly welcome visitors. She might sign for packages, tell visitors where to go or offer them beverages while they wait. Sometimes, a receptionist may have to politely but firmly send away an unwanted visitor, such as a salesperson on a cold call.

A receptionist's job also involves considerable phone work in most offices. She answers phone calls, takes messages, answers basic questions and directs calls to other employees. She may also be asked to make outgoing calls on behalf of her bosses, such as in scheduling meetings. Learning all the nuances of a complicated phone system is one of a receptionist's front desk duties. She must know how to use the voicemail system, how to facilitate conference calls, forward calls to employees' cell phones and so on.

Depending on the workplace, a receptionist may be responsible for any number of additional duties. She might be in charge of opening and delivering mail, filing, ordering office supplies, making copies, picking up lunch, running errands, arranging business travel and doing other tasks. If the office has a dedicated office manager or interns, they might do some of those things. Ultimately, a receptionist's specific job description depends upon the individual workplace.

Where Can I Work as a Receptionist?

Businesses of all kinds and sizes employ receptionists. Most offices do, even small offices. Sometimes, a group of small businesses that operate out of the same building will jointly employ one receptionist who performs work tasks for all of the businesses in that building. Some large office buildings employ one or more front desk receptionists who work at a desk in the lobby, greeting and checking in all visitors and accepting deliveries so that the offices upstairs aren't overrun with people.

Medical offices also employ front desk staff. These workers do a lot of the same tasks that other receptionists do (answering phones, dealing with mail, and so on.) but medical receptionists also have to schedule appointments, make appointment reminder calls, check insurance coverage, collect patient paperwork, as well as other tasks.

Hotels, car dealerships, gyms, government offices, museums, nursing homes, research labs, sports teams – receptionists can be employed by almost any type of business that receives a lot of visitors and phone calls, with the exception of businesses in the retail and food service sectors.

How Much Money Can I Make as a Receptionist?

Front desk clerks play a critical role in keeping an organization running smoothly, but their paychecks don't usually reflect that. Don't expect to get wealthy working as a receptionist. These jobs are almost always hourly, and sometimes, they pay no more than minimum wage.

The median pay for a receptionist was $13.65 per hour, or $28,390 per year, as of 2017. Median means that half of receptionists earn more than $13.65, while half earn less. The highest 10 percent earned more than $19.65 per hour.

Each employer sets its own pay for receptionists, but some industries have higher average pay than others. Healthcare and social assistance have the highest pay, on average; the median hourly wage in those industries was $14.26, of 2017. By contrast, receptionists who work in personal care fields, such as hair salons, gyms, recreation centers, and so on, earn median pay of just $11.07 per hour.

Do I Need a Degree to Work as a Receptionist?

It's rare for employers to require that their receptionists have college degrees. Typically, a high school diploma or equivalent is sufficient. These jobs don't require extensive training or specialized knowledge, so employers are inclined to look more for candidates that have front desk experience than for candidates who have advanced degrees.

Which Skills Should I Have to Work as a Receptionist?

A receptionist should be detail oriented and organized. It's this person's job to make life easier for her bosses, and a receptionist might need to jump quickly between tasks and to juggle a lot of different responsibilities in a single day. You should also be friendly and personable, but not a pushover, because it may fall to you to say "No" to people who want something from your business, such as a meeting with the boss.

Generally, receptionists are given computers to work with, so you should have basic computer skills, such as the ability to create and edit documents, type quickly and to use different email programs. Having spelling and grammatical skills are important, too, because you may be expected to send professional correspondence.

How Do I Get a Receptionist Job?

Because so many businesses employ front desk clerks, a job candidate should be able to find some openings in nearly any city. To get an interview, tailor your resume to highlight your organizational skills and any experience you have with phone systems, clerical work or customer service. Write a cover letter that stresses your attention to detail, reliability, professionalism, ability to work in a fast-paced environment and ability to learn quickly – or whatever mix of skills and strengths that you think make you well-suited for a receptionist job.

If applying directly to receptionist jobs doesn't yield any offers, consider signing up with a temp agency. A lot of the jobs temp agencies fill are clerical or front desk positions. Doing temp jobs will give you experience to put on your resume. A temporary receptionist job might also turn into a permanent position.

What Can I Expect as a Receptionist?

Typically, front desk receptionists work standard office hours, such as 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and have nights, weekends and holidays off. Most receptionists work full time. Only one in four receptionists works part-time, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

It's important to consider that the pace of a receptionist job can vary greatly, from workplace to workplace. In some offices, the receptionist will have downtime every day when nothing's happening and the phone isn't ringing. In other settings, like in a medical practice or an office where phones ring nonstop, the receptionist may have no downtime at all other than scheduled breaks and bathroom visits. The physical requirements of the job vary, too. Some receptionists sit all day, while others are expected to run errands or have other duties that require them to move around the office.

Because the receptionist is the face of an office, employers may require that you meet certain grooming standards. Having unnatural hair colors, visible tattoos and wearing revealing or casual clothing may not be allowed for you, even if they're okay for other staffers in the same office. Neat and professional are the standards to strive for.

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About the Author

Kathryn has been a lifestyle writer for more than a decade. Her work has appeared on USAToday.com and Indeed.com.