What Are the Essential Skills for a Receptionist?

B. Miller

There are some essential skills for a receptionist who wants to get hired in an office environment and succeed in the job. Interpersonal skills are by far some of the most important; since the receptionist will be interacting with a number of different people every day and representing the company, it is absolutely vital that he or she is friendly and professional. In addition, the ability to multi-task is also very important, since receptionists may be busy answering phones, emails, and talking to people in person at any given moment. The ability to use office equipment such as phone systems, computers, and fax machines are essential skills for a person in a receptionist position as well.

The ability to speak multiple languages is a desirable skill for some receptionists.
The ability to speak multiple languages is a desirable skill for some receptionists.

The bulk of a receptionist's job will involve answering phones and assisting people who walk in to a business, regardless of the type of business it is. As a result, interpersonal skills and good communication abilities are some of the most important skills for a receptionist. He or she should have a pleasant phone voice and demeanor, and always be friendly, polite, and professional. The ability to engage people in conversation is important as well, in addition to extensive knowledge about the business in order to answer questions quickly and accurately.

Receptionists may be required to have a working knowledge of copiers and other office equipment.
Receptionists may be required to have a working knowledge of copiers and other office equipment.

Multi-tasking abilities are also important skills for a receptionist to have. Most receptionists will be very busy throughout the day, answering ringing phones, attending to people who come in the office, and performing other office duties on the computer. Many are also responsible for tasks such as scheduling meetings, ordering lunches, or preparing certain reports. As a result, these multi-tasking abilities go hand in hand with excellent organizational abilities. A receptionist should be able to stay organized and on top of certain tasks without constant reminders or instruction from superiors in an office.

Receptionists need to be able to use a calendar to properly schedule appointments.
Receptionists need to be able to use a calendar to properly schedule appointments.

In addition, certain general office skills for a receptionist are also necessary to have. Receptionists and office assistants should know how to use multi-line telephone systems, computers, and certain types of office software such as word processing and spreadsheet programs, and other tools like a copy machine and fax machine. Most receptionists should be able to type a certain number of words per minute, and possess a high attention to detail to catch mistakes. In certain areas of the world, multilingual receptionists are highly sought after to provide great customer service to the entire customer base. Certain employers might require other skills in the job listing, but these are the most common.

Interpersonal skills are key in an office receptionist setting, as are organizational skills for multi-tasking.
Interpersonal skills are key in an office receptionist setting, as are organizational skills for multi-tasking.
The ability to engage people in conversation is an important skill for a receptionist to have.
The ability to engage people in conversation is an important skill for a receptionist to have.
Receptionists have to know how to contact vendors to purchase office supplies.
Receptionists have to know how to contact vendors to purchase office supplies.

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Discussion Comments

ysmina

I've been working as a receptionist for the past six years. This is a great article, it outlines the skills required for this job well.

If I had to pick one and say that this is the most important, I would definitely pick multi-tasking. This is a must-have skill for every receptionist. Someone who is unable to multi-task will quickly become disoriented and frustrated in this position.

donasmrs

We used to have a receptionist that wasn't very friendly. She never smiled and would answer phones and guests with an attitude. She didn't stay very long, she was fired after a few weeks! I don't why someone who isn't friendly and social would apply to this job in the first place.

fify

I think that a receptionist's job should be limited to answering phones, preparing materials and assisting with meetings. But usually they are required to do much more.

The receptionist at the office I work at even prepares tea, coffee and snacks for small meetings. It's not really her job to do that but there is no one else to do it, so it's given to her.

I think the most important skill for a receptionist is to be flexible and realize that different types of tasks may be required of him or her. Some tasks are important and interesting, like keeping minutes at a meeting or preparing a schedule for a boss. Other times, it's mundane tasks like making copies or making coffee.

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