For Beginners: Receptionist Tips I

By | Mar 4, 2008

One of the most frequent entry level positions for someone in the administrative support field is that of Receptionist. In this position, you will have a chance to learn and hone many skills that you will carry with you throughout your career as an administrative professional. As an Executive Assistant, I still get compliments on skills I learned as a Receptionist years ago. Since this is such an important entry level position, I will be writing a series of posts on being a good receptionist.

To begin, I will start with telephone etiquette, since answering incoming calls is usually a primary duty of a receptionist:

  • Smile when you answer the phone. You’ll sound more cheerful when you speak. I know it sounds hokey, but it really does work. Just try it.
  • Always answer the phone with an appropriate greeting: “Thank you for calling XYZ Company. How may I help you?” or “Good morning/afternoon, XYZ Company. How may I help you?”
  • Answer the phone as promptly as possible. The longer the phone rings, the more impatient the caller will become.
  • Ask for the caller’s name before transferring the call, and make note of pronunciation. The proper way to ask would be, “May I tell him who is calling?”
  • Announce the caller by name to the person to whom you are transferring the call before completing the transfer.
  • Always ask before putting someone on hold, “May I put you on hold for a moment?”. When you pick the line back up, thank them for holding, “Thank you for holding. How may I help you?” or “I’m sorry to keep you holding. How may I help you.”
  • When a person says “thank you”, the appropriate response is always “you’re welcome” in a cheerful voice. It is never, ever “uh-huh”. This is a particular pet peeve of mine, and a receptionist who responds with such will be receiving re-education as soon as possible.
  • Keep a scratch pad on your desk. As people talk to you, quickly jot down names and details and what line they are on. When you are answering multiple lines, you may at times have several lines holding for transfer. This will help you to keep from getting the calls confused and to be able to announce the calls appropriately. If it turns out the person they want is not available, you won’t have to ask them to repeat what they have already told you in order to take a message.
  • Ask managers if they prefer receiving calls in voice mail or getting a written message. Some have definite preferences one way or the other and will appreciate you asking.

What other tips do the seasoned professionals here have for our budding receptionists in regards to phone etiquette?

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35 Comments so far
  1. Joan Kabura (2 comments) August 27, 2009 12:12 am

    The advice you give on your site is invaluable and as a beginner its been great having a point of reference. One question though…I have been having a problem when it comes to serving clients especially when they are in the office for a presentation and so are gathered in the boardroom with someone presenting something at the front. Which is the best time to serve them and with what. If its hot beverages should I pour for them or should I let them do it for themselves?
    Thank you

  2. Jodith (189 comments) August 27, 2009 7:47 am

    Your best bet, if you know you are going to be having a group in the office, is to set up a self-serve station in the boardroom. Have a nice thermal coffee pot full, maybe another of hot water for tea drinkers, with the sugar, creamer, cups and whatnot nicely laid out on a side table or back table. That way people can serve themselves as they want, and you only need to keep an eye on things to do refills.

    If for some reason you can’t lay it out ahead of time, get people’s orders as they come in and serve them *before* the presentation. You don’t want to be disturbing the presentation by coming and going with drinks.

    In my opinion, the best bet is having a self-service table set out.

    Thanks for reading, and thanks for the question!

  3. Kate (1 comments) November 12, 2009 8:59 am

    Recently, we posted a blog on this subject as it applies to law firms and attorneys. You might want to check it out if you are an attorney or legal secretary:

  4. Portable Tables (1 comments) January 20, 2010 6:33 am

    Phone etiquette is so important. Many people that I talk to over the phone sound bored.
    .-= Portable Tables´s last blog ..Chiropractic Massage Table =-.

  5. Jodith (189 comments) January 31, 2010 1:55 pm

    And, of course, bored sounds like “I just don’t care about you or your needs”, which reflects quite badly on the company.

  6. Best pet insurance (2 comments) February 16, 2010 7:39 am

    The advice you give on your site is invaluable and as a beginner its been great having a point of reference.very nice post thanks
    .-= Best pet insurance´s last blog ..Season 7 – Episode 3 – Joel Seabrook =-.

  7. attorneys flagstaff (1 comments) March 20, 2010 11:57 am

    This is a very important and helpful post beginners, i was i need of this kinda post as i am a starter now , thanks for the post
    kate thanks for the link you shared ,

  8. aami (1 comments) June 7, 2010 3:49 pm

    I would thoroughly recommend the use of phone scripts. I’ve seen many new to telephone canvassing just lose their way and babble themselves downward.

  9. Jodith (189 comments) June 9, 2010 10:14 am

    While these tips aren’t for telephone canvassers, you are right that scripts can be helpful in answering frequently asked questions. Every receptionist should have a desk manual with a list of frequently asked questions and their answers. They help you provide information quickly when you’re inundated and your brain freezes, and they are invaluable to anyone manning the desk in your absence.

  10. Group Insurance | Gorr Financial (1 comments) June 10, 2010 3:43 pm

    thanks for this! theres a great book out there called “dont take the last donut” – it’s a really good book, sort of on this same level, about business ettiquette.

  11. Saras Carmel Indiana Homes for Sale (1 comments) June 18, 2010 7:56 am

    Asking permisson to put someone onhold is so much more polite than a “please hold.” People don’t want to feel as if they are just another caller. Making each one fell individual is key. I always try to end a conversaton with “Thank you (insert callers name).

  12. Tamarac Urgent Care (1 comments) June 29, 2010 2:29 pm

    I agree with the scirpt theory to some degree, but if not executed well, it sounds robotic and unatural and a big turn off to the customer.

  13. janicek (1 comments) July 15, 2010 2:26 pm

    There are good researches for phone and office etiquettes. the point taken is available and very useful.

  14. danna@new homes for sale (1 comments) August 3, 2010 8:11 am

    These tips will be very helpful for beginners who want to perform better at work as receptionists. Good receptionists are courteous, kind enough to assist you and they never fail to smile even when they’re in a bad mood.

  15. new homes in sandpoint (1 comments) August 5, 2010 10:50 am

    Receptionist will at least answer the call with a cheerful voice because definitely no one wanted to call with a voice that answered with irritating voice. They should be aware of this. And just say thank you after the call is something that clients wanted to hear.

  16. Group traveller (1 comments) August 12, 2010 9:30 am

    As an administrative support, we should behave properly and have good etiquette because we represent our boss to their clients. What the clients say about us will reflect to our boss’ reputation. It transcends even to how we answer phone calls. Thanks for this very useful phone etiquette information.

  17. ANGELA (1 comments) August 25, 2010 4:43 am


  18. robert (1 comments) October 15, 2010 9:37 am

    Depending on their employer and the size of the office, a Receptionist may be responsible for a variety of other duties. Most Receptionists have a decent knowledge of the various applications in Microsoft Office, in order to type correspondence, update spreadsheets, draw up presentation and possibly, keep track of the inventory. They may sort the incoming mail and post the outgoing mail. They may have to sign for deliveries and send packages out promptly. In smaller offices, they may deliver mail and packages to their recipients. Receptionists may be in charge of the fax machine, receiving and delivering incoming faxes and sending outgoing ones for people in the office.

  19. chris (2 comments) December 20, 2010 1:36 am

    Though you’re the one ensuring office visitors get what they need from the experience, don’t feel confined to that role. Any workplace can benefit from an employee willing to assume more responsibility than asked. Fill downtime with projects that can assist your colleagues, and not only will your stock with them rise, but you’ll be sure to continue developing yourself as an asset to your company.

  20. jim (2 comments) January 12, 2011 1:04 am

    Professionalism is of the utmost importance, and receptionists must strive to constantly be on point, looking and sounding professional. In essence, the receptionist represents the company, and any negative behaviors will reflect poorly upon it.

  21. new condos for sale (1 comments) January 20, 2011 1:36 am

    Be courteous. Be respectful. Treat everyone like they are the most important person that has walked into the office that day. This is your job- nobody cares about how you got stuck in traffic this morning, how you ruined your brand new purse, or even how you lost your favorite CD. Leave personal matters at home. (Even if you don’t respect their message or the way they convey it- fake it)

  22. Steven (2 comments) April 5, 2011 9:13 pm

    These tips will be very helpful for beginners who want to perform better at work as receptionists. Good receptionists are courteous, kind enough to assist you and they never fail to smile even when they’re in a bad mood. Thank you for the idea.

  23. Timpys (1 comments) May 22, 2012 6:47 am

    I recently began at a company as receptionist. The most important thing to do is stay out of gossip. You are at a remote area that everyone will congregate to. Just nod your head and smile when co-workers vent to you. Also keep your main area neat, tidy and cheerful. As vistors come in if possible, 3 S- Smile Stand Shake their had.
    Always dress the part!

  24. Whitney C. Bledsoe (2 comments) July 28, 2012 11:56 am

    Hi my name is Whitney and I have never worked as a receptionist before. I believe all the tips will b helpful to me when I start my new job on Monday 🙂 Thank you for posting these wonderful beginner tips! 🙂

  25. frehiwot (1 comments) October 8, 2012 11:38 pm

    am the new receptionest i just went to be learn some step about it

  26. nabila (1 comments) October 17, 2012 7:34 pm

    Recently i’ve been to some interviews concerning the post of receptionist. my interviews was good but what preoccupies me is that i have not work for the past 8 years but i still have my knowledge of administrative what are my chances and how could i do it to get a chance to get my interviews. thanks

  27. Cindy (1 comments) October 21, 2012 2:23 pm

    I hope the receptionist will always keep in mind one of the maintain and important rule. And that it to smile and be friendly to their clients especially those who are in the hotels and restaurants.

  28. Connie | Group Travel Specialists (1 comments) March 12, 2013 7:47 am

    This was great advice. I sent it to our travel agents to read so they can provide better customer service.

  29. Kelly (1 comments) March 21, 2013 10:35 am

    I am going to college for Health Office Admin.
    The only thing which scares me is dealing with difficult and angry patients. I know this is inevitable, and I want to learn not to take it personally.
    Please does anyone have any tips how they manage to not take it personally or ruin their day when a client is rude /impolite /angry toward you??

  30. Martina (1 comments) June 28, 2014 1:01 pm


    Thanks for all the nice advices on how to better perform as an assistant. I really appreciate all suggestion of this blog. I am very interested in starting my career in administration and I would like to take the role of receptionist first. I am not sure though which questions should I ask the first days at work. I would like to be able to be smiley and cheerful while talking with guests, at the phone and with my colleagues but since it will be the first time that I will work in a office environment I am not sure what to expect and what I should know to become more familiar and be on top of my duty.
    Thanks for your help.

  31. pascallyn holm (1 comments) July 6, 2014 8:07 am

    Thanks for all this tips.I am already a receptionist at a hotel and i’m more than glad for this tips but my only problem is, my manager gets upset whenever she sees me smiling or communicating with any of the guest.Please help me because, one of this days i might do something stupid which will be regretted later.

  32. David (2 comments) December 31, 2014 8:22 am

    The receptionist plays an important role and you always want to get on their good side because they can make your life a lot easier from the managers perspective and the callers view. I appreciate the etiquette tips and think these also carry over to engagement in person.

  33. Jessica (1 comments) May 20, 2015 8:03 am

    These tips are good for smaller offices. I work in an office with 200+ people and I am not allowed to screen calls or take messages. I am a switchboard operator and I am very limited on what I can and can’t do. If an employee is not available the caller needs to leave a voice mail. I can’t force anyone to answer their phone or even call the person back. I’m not a personal assistant. I’m the operator and my job is to transfer the call and that’s it. These notes are great on how to be courteous and polite, but not all the info applies to all companies. lots of times callers have no idea how a company is run and get frustrated when the person who answers the phone doesn’t do what they want.

  34. Nontutuzelo (1 comments) January 20, 2016 5:30 am


    Thank you so much for your tips, i have been struggling to answer the phone for a very long time, sometimes i could even think i must quite my job because i am not good enough for it but your tips really did help me. I would shake when the phone rings because i am nervous and i have a man’s voice so sometimes clients doesnt even recognise if i am a lady. But yes i will be fine now

  35. Tami (1 comments) April 4, 2016 12:43 am

    Morning, i am going to have my first interview tomorrow for a receptionist position, i am scared i dont know what to expect. Please help with some questions to expect

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