Receptionist Job Description

When you're employed as a receptionist, you're the face of the company you're working for, and what you say and do creates the first impression many people will have when they make contact with your employer.

That means you're hired primarily for how you present yourself and how well you interact with people. Your employer will need you to greet visitors courteously, answer the phone and emails in a pleasant manner, screen and route calls and respond to inquiries from the public and company clients. Often, you will be expected to help out with additional tasks such as sorting mail, making copies and preparing conference rooms for meetings. And keep in mind that you will also help contribute to the company's security by monitoring who arrives to the office.

Part of the fun of being a receptionist is the variety of tasks you're responsible for. No two days will be the same. And if you switch jobs, you will learn new skills.

"Receptionists and information clerks in hospitals and in doctors' offices may gather patients' personal and insurance information and direct them to the proper waiting rooms," according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). "In corporate headquarters, they may greet visitors and manage the scheduling of the board room or common conference area. In beauty or hair salons, they arrange appointments, direct customers to the hairstylist, and may serve as cashiers. In factories, large corporations, and government offices, receptionists and information clerks may provide identification cards and arrange for escorts to take visitors to the proper office."

Ready to work as a receptionist? Here's what you need to know to get started:

The basics. The BLS says that median hourly wages of receptionists in May 2008 were $11.80, with the middle 50% earning between $9.69 and $14.44. Dentists' and doctors' offices are at the high end of the scale while personal care services such as beauty salons are at the low end. There are plenty of jobs out there: receptionist positions are expected to grow at a rate of 15% between 2008 and 2018. Opportunities will be best for people with a few years of experience as well as a range of clerical and technical experience.

Dress for success. Since you are "the face" of the organization--making that all-important first impression in representing your company--you'll want to look your best. Be sure that your appearance is neat, fresh and businesslike. Find out if your company has a dress code, take a close look at how your best-dressed co-workers put themselves together, and match your look to the office's look.

Learn all you can about the company. Since you'll be representing your organization, you may need to spend a few months training while on the job. Clients and visitors may have questions about the company when you greet them, and you'll need to learn office processes and procedures. Other than that, most employers will want you to have a high school diploma, some computer skills and an ability to operate a phone system.

Prepare for the future. Technology is changing what receptionists do, and many are going online and working in remote locations as virtual receptionists. Voicemail and email are reducing the need for receptionists. But then again, technology will never be able to replace a knowledgeable professional with a friendly voice and a wealth of information about a company. And remember, employment of receptionists is expected to grow at a rate of 15% in 10 years--that's faster than the average for all occupations!

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