Preparation is the key to success. However, your qualifications, prior work experience, excellent typing speed, computer proficiency, etc. won’t amount to much if you don’t arrive at the interview well prepared.
Job interviews can be rather stressful, and there is no better antidote for this stress than confidence. Confidence comes from having a well-informed idea of what to expect, and having a clear, feasible plan will help you to meet those expectations.
The most often asked questions for receptionist candidates tend to be open-ended (as opposed to yes-or-no questions). This is also the case for office manager interview questions. However, you will want to keep your answers short, and preparation is the best way to ensure you don’t meander or go off on unnecessary tangents.
In this short article, we will give you some samples of receptionist job interview questions, sample answers, and tips that will help as you prepare for a receptionist interview.
1. What Can You Tell Me About Yourself?
You can be sure that this question will often come up at the very beginning of an interview. The good news is, in the job description, you will find the skills, experience and personal characteristics the company is looking for. You can use this information to tailor your response, letting them see your personality while showing yourself to be an asset to the company.
There are virtually millions of jobs posted online. By looking through the multitude of offers for a receptionist role you will begin to understand the vocabulary you should use for the job interview. However, the specific job offer you are applying for will be your best source for this information.
Answering this question is not the time for subtlety. It will often be apparent to the interviewer that you are using the same vocabulary found in the job description, but this is a good thing. By doing this, you will show the interviewer that:
- You have thoroughly read and understood the specifics of the job description.
- You have prepared for the interview questions (This shows off your organisational and preparation skills).
- You possess the skills and character traits they are looking for.
- You are focused and detail-oriented (You don’t include lengthy descriptions of your hobbies and interests that are irrelevant to the job).
Sample Answer (words taken from the job description are in bold)
I am a calm, friendly person with five years of experience working as a receptionist, where I would answer phone calls and take messages. I enjoy face-to-face contact with people, and I take great satisfaction in finding unique solutions to complex problems.
2. Can You Tell Me About a Situation Where You Had to Handle a Difficult Customer?
When you interview for a receptionist position, you will need to show that you can empathise with the customer and maintain a level head when faced with a stressful situation – which for most receptionist positions occurs daily. This question is where you can bring out those qualities.
With this question, the interviewer is looking to get a sense of your ability to remain calm under pressure and see your problem-solving skills, patience, and empathy. When answering this question, make sure to express the following:
- The stakes - Why was it important for you to effectively handle this customer? What would have happened had you not succeeded?
- The pressure - Were you working in a fast-paced environment? Were you up against the clock?
- The technique(s) you used to remain calm - The interviewer not only wants to know what strategies you implemented but how these helped you.
- The technique(s) you used to express or show empathy - A receptionist's job is one of customer service. Empathy is crucial. The interviewer here wants examples of your ability to solve problems with customers. Your answer can be as straightforward or as complex as you want. Read the situation and show yourself as the empathetic and understanding individual you are.
- The solution you found - You may not have been able to satisfy the customer completely, but what is most important is that you were able to de-escalate the situation and that you were able to express empathy while portraying a positive image of the company.
The wording of the question can be a trap. Be careful not to portray the customer as difficult. The situation may have been tricky to handle, but not the customer. This is an opportunity to show that you can empathise with the customer, and qualifying them as ‘difficult’ will work against that objective.
This question also allows you to express how you have used the specific skills they are looking for to solve a problem. For example, if the job offer states they are looking for someone with experience using Microsoft Office or they need someone to answer phones, it would be great to incorporate that into your answer.
On the phone, I had a customer who was furious that she had been billed twice for the same service. The billing department hadn’t returned her calls or her emails and she was threatening to sue. She demanded immediate satisfaction, and I had another customer on hold on the other line.
I began by apologising and agreeing with her that the situation was unacceptable. I assured her that I would take immediate action. This calmed her down, so I politely asked her to hold the line, saying I would be no more than one minute. This allowed me to check in with the customer waiting on the other line, whom I transferred to a colleague.
The billing department was located in an adjacent wing. I switched to a cordless phone and explained to the customer that I would stay on the line with her as I walked to the billing department to speak to the manager face-to-face. This gave the customer the correct impression that she now had an ally and that we would work together to solve the problem.
Tips for Answering Receptionist Interview Questions
Each answer you give is an opportunity to show the interviewer that you are a good fit for the company and that you would make a great receptionist.
Tip 1 - Research the Company and Incorporate in Your Answers the Vocabulary You Find in Their Media
The receptionist position is the face of the company. Therefore, the tone, priorities, and even the precise vocabulary in the communication should be those of the company.
- Check their website and pay close attention to their mission statement. This should inform how you frame your answers.
- Look at their social media accounts. This should inform the tone you adopt when giving your answers.
Tip 2 - Incorporate the Job Description into Your Self-Assessment or Description
You are responding to the job offer because it corresponds to what you are looking for. Make sure that is apparent in your answers. For example, if the job offer states the candidate must be detail-oriented or must be able to identify the priority tasks, then those qualifiers should also appear in your description of yourself. If the job offer states that the employee may have to work overtime, then when you describe yourself or your prior experience, you should state that you are willing to or looking to work overtime.
Tip 3 - Posture, Poise, and Presentation
Your words and answers to the questions are a huge part of the overall interview, but for the best results, make sure to pay special attention to:
- Posture - Sit upright and convey confidence.
- Eye contact - Too much eye contact can be awkward. Not enough will make you look unsure.
- Hand gestures - Use them sparingly, preferring to show a calm and collected demeanour.
- The speed of speech - Speaking too quickly conveys stress and panic, while speaking too slowly conveys a lack of preparation or sureness.
Looking to Become a Receptionist in London? Oriel Partners Can Help You!
If you’re looking for a job as a receptionist, we would love to help. Oriel Partners has many temporary, contract and permanent jobs across all industry sectors. Have a look through the many receptionist jobs listed on our website or contact us to find out more.