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RISMEDIA, March 11, 2008-(MCT)-Your receptionist is often the first contact customers and partners have with your business, be it over the phone or in person, so it is very important to have the right person handling the job. And to hire the right person, it’s necessary to first identify what kind of employee you are looking for.

1. Determine Necessary Skills: Before you craft a job description for your vacant receptionist position, list the most vital responsibilities your receptionist will have. If your phone rings off the hook, a pleasant phone manner is paramount, as is composure under pressure. If you receive a constant stream of visitors at the office, screen for prospective receptionists who are personable and have a polished, welcoming demeanor.

Think carefully about the type of business you’re in and how your receptionist can best personify the image you wish to project. Screen for those who are truly interested in a receptionist role, as opposed to those who simply want to get a foot in your company’s door the easiest way possible. That said, when it comes time to conduct interviews, ask each candidate what they know about your company and listen carefully to how they respond. You want someone who has a solid understanding of the business, which helps them to present a confident and capable first impression to outsiders.

2. Assess Your Gut Feelings: Be exacting in interviews. Too often employers focus solely on credentials when considering candidates, but conduct is often just as important, especially when it comes to the receptionist role. A nervous, timid manner can be incredibly off-putting to those having their first dealings with a business. If your receptionist embodies such traits, it doesn’t matter how highly trained your staff is; you could potentially lose business on the basis of the receptionist alone. It may seem illogical to form an opinion of a prospective receptionist based on gut feelings, but if you’re turned off by his or her demeanor, consider how your clients will feel. In turn, if you get an extremely positive feeling from interacting with a prospect, take that as a good sign.

Interviewing receptionists isn’t the same as hiring for other positions. Receptionists are required to react on the fly, think on their feet, and tackle whatever situation comes their way. Angry caller on the phone? The receptionist will be the first one in your office with the opportunity to talk them down. Have a glut of visitors all clamoring for attention at once? It’s the receptionist’s job to ensure that everyone gets where they’re going. These scenarios and more are why it’s crucial to hire a receptionist with a warm, affable manner.

3. Allow for an Adjustment Period: While it’s helpful to evaluate receptionist candidates based on their abilities, be sure to give your new hire a chance to settle in before deciding how you think they’re doing. Obvious as this may seem, every business is governed by its own processes and filled with its own distinctive combination of personalities. Even the best, most adaptable receptionists will need some time to adjust to his or her new situation. Six weeks is usually a reasonable amount of time to assess how a receptionist is faring. You may wish to consider bringing someone in on a temporary basis at first, and then when you feel confident they make a good fit, bring them on permanently.

4. Checklist: Greeting Office Visitors: Your receptionist is in control of visitors’ first impressions of the company. Here’s what this crucial person should do to ensure that those first impressions are positive ones:

–1. Project professionalism. The receptionist is a gatekeeper, but they’re also charged with giving visitors their first taste of the office culture.
–2. Greet all visitors loud and clear. Saying “Good morning” or “Good afternoon” in a steady, audible tone imparts an air of capability sure to be appreciated by all office visitors.
–3. Ask visitors whom their appointment is with. Assuming a guest is there to see the wrong person suggests inefficiency, something no one in your business wants that person to feel going into a professional exchange with your company.
–4. Ask for the visitor’s name and note the pronunciation. This way, when the receptionist alerts a member of your office that their visitor is on site, they’ll also guarantee they know how to address the visitor.
–5. Keep the visitor informed. After a receptionist has notified a colleague that their visitor has arrived, they should let the visitor know they’ve done that — i.e., “Mr. Fox will be with you shortly.”

5. Diversify Your Receptionist: Though the receptionist is the one ensuring office visitors get what they need from the experience, you don’t want that person to feel confined by that role. Any workplace can benefit from an employee willing to assume more responsibility than asked. Allow your receptionist to fill downtime with projects that can assist colleagues, and not only will the receptionist’s stock with coworkers rise, but they’ll be sure to continue developing as an asset to the company.

Copyright © 2008,
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.