Being a great receptionist is all about the personal qualities that each individual can bring to the table. Whether you're hiring a receptionist or you have set out to become one, it helps to know some of the more important attributes that make a good receptionist. Personality traits have often been termed as the "Big 5", which include Openness to Experience, Extroversion-Introversion, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Agreeableness. However, we feel that the same blunt tool can't be applied when it comes to hiring receptionists. While being agreeable is definitely the most important quality in a candidate, there are many more characteristics that we have found to be crucial. It's these personality features that must be apparent when hiring your next receptionist. If you are or are planning to become a receptionist, take our fun quiz which identifies your celebrity receptionist personality!
Being open to new people and ideas
One of the most important responsibilities of an in-house or virtual receptionist is to greet and speak to callers from various backgrounds and cultures. This means the receptionist has to be culturally sensitive, which is a quality that comes naturally to those who score high on being open to new things. Being open-minded helps receptionists to creatively solve problems, and ensure that every caller is attended to in a respectful and polite manner.
Being friendly and polite
Being friendly and polite is a quality that can be learned, but it is also a characteristic that comes naturally to some people. There are individuals out there that just don’t have to try that hard for this to be apparent in their personality. They always speak with a smile, are kind and resourceful, and ensure that they don't cross the boundaries of civility. This quality is very important for receptionists as they always need to be on their toes to ensure that no caller or visitor is made to feel uninvited or unwanted.
As receptionists need to speak a lot and interact with many people, having extroverted qualities can be rather helpful. However, this doesn’t mean introverts can't be hired as receptionists. Introverts can be quite sociable, as long as they find time to remove themselves and recharge from extensive human interactions. Some advice that we often give to our virtual receptionists who are introverts is to take frequent short breaks and get some personal time for themselves.
Being judicious and careful
If you're applying for a receptionist’s position, or if you wish to hire a receptionist, make sure they have good attention for details. One of the most important tasks of a receptionist is to take notes and record information. While virtual receptionists simply enter all details into their systems, receptionists on the floor may find it difficult to take organized notes. Often these notes end up being misplaced or incomplete. This is one of the major reasons why you should hire someone who is prudent about their job responsibilities.
Able to control emotions
It is very common for receptionists to find themselves in a fix, or feeling cornered by callers and visitors. And, when someone corners you it's hard not to feel threatened or become emotionally defensive. But, it's critical to display a calm and collected demeanor so that your work can continue to run smoothly. Even when someone is being really difficult or even aggressive in their tone, receptionists need to be able to remain confident in their position. This kind of environment requires a higher emotional intelligence than most other jobs. Remember, you're there to represent your company. So, staying strong in your stance is a must for any receptionist.
Able to empathize with others
Sometimes callers who contact a business can be irate, sad, or upset. In fact, callers can have varying emotions when they call in and an important quality for any receptionist or call center agent to have is to be able to sense and recognize these emotions in a caller or visitor and address them professionally and properly. This means you have to be empathetic. If you have found a receptionist who is able to put themselves in another person’s shoes, then you have found a good receptionist. It's not an easy task for anyone to put themselves aside for another's feelings or well being, but for those that can do this, they make the best candidates for customer service jobs and other positions that represent your business.
Ability to work under Pressure
A receptionist often has to work under high amounts of stress. Although like any position, there can be some downtime or slower periods in the average work-day, receptionists will suddenly find themselves juggling many tasks at once. There are always deadlines to meet, meetings to schedule, calls to make, and dozens of other duties, none of which can be postponed or forgotten. This, of course, may cause a lot of strain on a receptionist. Nevertheless, a good receptionist is the one that is able to handle it gracefully, without wincing or complaint. It makes sense to hire a receptionist who is not only able to remain calm and focused but is also seemingly unaffected by it. To be a receptionist you really have to be able to let the little things bounce off you.
Ability to remain calm
If a caller is angry with an employer, the aggression is usually directed toward the person receiving the message. I'm sure you've heard the old saying "please, don't shoot the messenger.". Well, this is a perfect example of why that old saying is an old saying. A good receptionist is one that is able to remain calm even when callers or visitors cause chaos. You have to "keep your wits about you". Another good old saying for these scenarios.
Ability to make quick decisions
When the time comes, and it will, a receptionist will have to make some big decisions regarding company affairs, even if that is not within their purview. This is common when the boss is unavailable, a manager or supervisor is occupied or detained, and the caller or visitor needs a quick answer or solution. Answering service agents simply can't keep a caller on hold or ask them to call back later. It's just not good business. They'll need to make some difficult decisions in order to keep things running smoothly and have a good understanding of basic business practices.
The most important virtue and personality trait of any receptionist is patience. "Patience is a virtue" - but it's also a personality trait. Hiring a receptionist who is able to patiently answer questions, handle situations calmly and collectively, and listen to people before speaking is key. In fact, without patience, you couldn't be a receptionist or work in any kind of customer service position.
As you can see, a receptionist isn't just about being a good note-taker and having good communication skills. They must also have certain characteristics such as being open-minded, friendly and sociable, careful and diligent, empathetic and patient, and always be in control of their emotions and actions. It might seem like a tall order for most people out there considering the job, but these are the very qualities that will help every receptionist just starting out to climb to the top of their professional potential.