Receptionists are a fundamental part of nearly every office, as they perform many vital duties to ensure that the office runs smoothly and its professionals are supported. Common duties that a receptionist may perform include greeting clients, sending and receiving office correspondence and setting appointments.
In this article, we discuss what a receptionist is, their typical job duties and work environment, qualifications required including education, and the skills needed to be a successful receptionist.
What is a receptionist?
A receptionist is a professional who is responsible for performing various administrative duties within an office setting. They typically sit in the main lobby area of an office and are the first person who guests see upon visiting the office space. Receptionists are responsible for several different tasks depending on the organization in which they work.
For example, a receptionist who works for a company that sets several in-office appointments may spend much of their time scheduling appointments with clients, whereas receptionists who work for companies that do not have many in-office appointments may spend their time doing other administrative tasks.
Additional titles for the receptionist role include:
- Telephone clerk
- Office reception clerk
- Front desk clerk
- Office receptionist
- Appointment clerk
- Chief telephone operator
- Answering service operator
- Reception clerk
While receptionists can work in nearly any office setting, the most common industry that hires receptionists is the health industry. Physicians, dentists and other practitioners' offices employ the most receptionists.
What does a receptionist do?
While receptionist duties and responsibilities can vary greatly depending on their place of employment, the most common tasks that a receptionist is responsible for include:
- Welcoming office guests and directing them to the person or office they are visiting
- Answering phones and making phone calls on behalf of office employees
- Forwarding phone calls to appropriate recipients
- Sending and replying to office emails
- Maintaining office supplies and placing orders when inventory is low
- Scheduling appointments and meetings for employees and coordinating with clients regarding the meetings
- Keeping office records up to date
- Arranging travel and accommodations for employees
- Sending and receiving mail and other correspondence
- Performing various other clerical tasks including faxing, transcribing and filing
If a receptionist works in an office that focuses on customer service, they may also be required to handle and resolve customer complaints and other issues. Receptionists may also be responsible for taking payments from clients, sending out invoices and paying office-related expenses using office funds.
Read more: Learn About Being a Receptionist
Required education for receptionists
There is no set education requirement for receptionists. However, most places of employment require receptionists to have a high school diploma or its equivalent at a minimum. Many employers also look for applicants who have some level of higher education, such as a vocational or college degree in administration or a related field. Any job posting for a particular receptionist position should list the exact education requirements.
Several receptionist certification programs are available to help a receptionist stand out among applicants, including:
- Medical receptionist certificate
- Dental receptionist certificate
- Professional receptionist certificate
- Veterinary receptionist certificate
- Office receptionist certificate
There is no specific amount of experience required to be a receptionist. However, some employers require receptionists to have as much as three years of previous experience in the field. Any higher education in the administrative field may be considered experience by employers. Additionally, holding other administrative positions can also contribute to years of experience on your receptionist resume.
Employers who do not require previous experience typically provide on-the-job training to the receptionists they hire. For example, a company may require you to learn office software and other technology, as well as its filing system.
Skills to be a successful receptionist
Receptionists need several skills to be successful in their careers, including:
- Interpersonal skills: Receptionists are often the first person a visitor comes in contact with when visiting an office. This means that receptionists must have excellent interpersonal skills to ensure visitors have good first impressions and feel welcomed. Receptionists also must answer phones and respond to correspondence in a friendly way to maintain positive relationships with both clients and employees.
- Organization skills: Receptionists are responsible for the organization of various office-related documentation, including client files and employee documents. Some receptionists are also in charge of keeping employees' communications and other files organized.
- Communication skills: These professionals regularly communicate with several people, including employees, managers and clients. Communication that a receptionist may be responsible for includes both written and verbal forms, including on the phone, via email and through letters.
- Technology skills: Receptionists often rely on several types of software and technology to perform their daily duties. For example, they may use word processing software and databases to keep track of employee information. They may also use e-filing systems and various other technologies in their specific workplace.
- Multitasking skills: Receptionists often find themselves doing multiple things at once, such as answering phone calls, greeting customers and corresponding with employees. Being able to multitask without becoming overwhelmed is an important skill needed to be successful in this position.
Receptionist work environment and schedule
Receptionists most commonly work in office settings, which can be in large corporations or smaller companies in virtually any industry. They may work at a desk by themselves or in a cubicle-like setting with other employees nearby. Because of the nature of their work, receptionists interact with other people in some form all day and typically have very little privacy.
Most receptionists work full-time, and some may work part-time, during normal business hours such as 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. If their office is open nights or weekends, they may also be required to work during those hours.