Careers advice

What are the skills needed for a receptionist position?

How to ensure your application gets a good reception.

Welcoming people to their dream holiday destination, providing key information and a friendly face at a medical facility or ensuring the smooth operation of private businesses, working as a receptionist can be a fulfilling and varied career that will give you the opportunity to learn a huge array of skills.

However, receptionist roles are popular in NZ, and you’ll need to create a job application that will make you stand out. The best way to do this? Know the skills that employers in this sector are looking for, and tailor your CV and cover letter so that you can include as many of these as is truthfully possible.

So, to give you a headstart, we thought we’d compile a list of the competencies you really should have on your application.

Skills needed for a receptionist position

1. Prioritization

It shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that, as a receptionist, you’ll be juggling constant demands. At the end of the day, you’re only human, so you’ll need to be able to prioritise the order in which you complete your responsibilities so that the most important work gets done first.

What this means in practice will depend on the organisation that you eventually work in, but we’d recommend preparing for a behavioural interview question around how you would prioritise when multiple people are asking you to do things at the same time.

Expect to do a lot of multitasking as a receptionist.

2. Communication

Second on our list of key receptionist skills is communication. As a receptionist, you’ll spend a huge part of every day talking to people, whether in person, on the phone or via email. This means you’ll need to have top-notch communication skills, and be able to adapt your mode of communication based on who you’re talking to, and the subject matter.

For example, if you were working as a medical receptionist, you’ll likely be communicating with medical staff using all manner of medical jargon. However, when it comes to relaying key information to patients, you’ll need to tone this jargon down in order to ensure they understand what you’re telling them.

Under this heading also comes emotional intelligence, as this is a huge part of effective communication. Medical receptionist roles are a great example here too. People coming into medical facilities are often experiencing stressful life circumstances, meaning you’ll need to adapt how you interact with them to show empathy as well as professionalism.

3. Customer service

There’s no doubt that good customer service and good communication are interlinked, but this is so important that it requires its own section.

In a receptionist job, you’ll often be a customer’s first point of contact with the organisation. In other words, you’re the face. Given that humans form first impressions in a matter of seconds, this puts a fair amount of pressure on you.

This means it’s a great idea to work on your customer service skills, including:

  • Active listening
  • Using your body language
  • Take feedback onboard
  • Become a product/service expert
  • Find common ground

Customer service is vital for being a successful receptionist.

4. Data entry

From financial data to booking details, a key receptionist responsibility is data entry. Within this, there are a whole bunch of skills:

  • Speed: today, organisations of all sorts run on data. This means data, a lot of which you will provide, needs to be quickly and readily available.
  • Confidentiality: again, depending where you work, you’ll have to be well aware of where your data is coming from, and ensure that confidentiality is respected.
  • Attention to detail: ultimately, data is useless if it’s not entered correctly. So, while speed is important, so is accuracy.

5. Problem solving

As the face of the organization, you’ll often be the first point of contact for people who are having problems with the organisation’s service.

For example, imagine you’re a hotel receptionist and people turn up to find their room reservation wasn’t correctly logged in the system. Chances are, this person isn’t going to be happy, and you’ll be the first person they speak to. So, what would you do?

Ultimately, the right call will come down to the unique situation, and your experience in handling these types of scenarios, but you’ll need to trust your intuition and gut to react in a way that benefits your customers and maintains the reputation of your organization.

6. Technological ability

As with nearly every role these days, a key receptionist skill is being tech savvy. As well as organisation or sector specific software packages, which you’ll learn on the job, it’s a great idea to get up to speed with common software like Microsoft Office and the Google Suite.

In the COVID world we live in, we’d also recommend becoming familiar with remote communication technologies like Zoom, Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams, as lockdowns won’t mean that you don’t need to communicate with people.