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3 Things Your Receptionist Wants You to Know

Topics: Career Profiles

Today is National Receptionists’ Day, and if you’ve forgotten it, your receptionist probably isn’t all that surprised. It can be a thankless job, being the smiling, friendly face of the company – the first face, in fact, that clients, potential employees, delivery people, and anyone else who comes through that front door sees when they first interact with the organization. There’s a lot your receptionist could tell you, if he or she weren’t so discreet.


(Photo Credit: Northern Ireland Executive/Flickr)

For instance:

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1. They know who’s a good hire, and who deserves a goodbye.

Do you ask your receptionist about candidates and clients? If not, you’re missing out. How people behave when they think they have no one to impress says a lot about who they are when the interview outfit is packed away in mothballs. For instance, if they’re rude to receptionists and administrative personnel, they’re not nice people – or very smart.

2. They have hidden talents.

This is true of almost all professionals, but for some reason, people tend to forget that receptionists have a life and interests outside of the office.

“They look at me and think I’m stupid, but I have a degree from one of the best schools in the country. I wanted to be a musician,” writes an anonymous receptionist in Forbes. “I came to New York, graduated with honors from a renowned music program and saw myself playing in an orchestra. I was planning my future with a man. We’d both work to scrape by while I pursued my music. It might be hard, but we’d be together. I had all these romantic visions, and then reality hit.”

Not every story is that sad and dire. Your receptionist might be a recent grad on his way up, or an entrepreneur about to found her own business. Alternatively, receptionist might be her dream job – that doesn’t mean it’s the only thing she’s got going on. Maybe she skydives on the weekends or paints after work. You don’t know, unless you get to know her.

3. They might not relish the role of Office Mom.

Food and beverage service are often part of the job for receptionists, but that doesn’t mean that they’re your mother – they don’t know where you put that file, or why the AC is on the fritz again, or why your 11 a.m. is running late. (They’ll be happy, on the other hand, to call the repairman or your tardy client – but it never hurts to ask nicely.)

Furthermore, as they’re likely to be female (97 percent of receptionists are, according to PayScale data), they’re probably to be fighting an uphill battle against unconscious bias – in this case, the idea that women are better at the kind of unpaid emotional labor that we often expect them to provide for free.

Keep in mind, also, that their actual job duties aren’t particularly well-compensated: the median wage for receptionists is $11 an hour. That’s not a ton of money for someone who keeps the front of the office running smoothly, makes sure people and messages get to where they need to be, and multitasks with a smile.

And, that may be the biggest thing receptionists want you to know: just because they make it look easy, doesn’t mean it is.

Tell Us What You Think

Are you a receptionist? Tell us your horror stories. We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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#1 may not always be true as certainly there are very rude receptionists with lack of people skills and some have been remembered to not reciprocate back to others who are usually nice to them.

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