Top 16 Receptionist Interview Questions (+ Sample Answers)

By Jeff Gillis

When it comes to the roles people play within a professional organization, it’s hard to ignore just how critically important a good receptionist is. In many ways, a receptionist is the physical representation of the organization, and so it becomes critical for the organization to find the best candidate for the position (and this is why we’ve chosen to write an entire article on receptionist interview questions!).

After all, they’re the first person you speak to when calling in and often the first face you see when you walk into the office. Receptionists interact with employees, clients, agencies, vendors…basically anybody and everybody who has anything to do with the company.

For this reason, when it comes to hiring a new receptionist, hiring managers aren’t just looking at someone who can do the job, but who can represent the entire reputation of the company in the most positive way possible…which is why, when you’re prepping for your upcoming receptionist interview, you need to not just be a good candidate….you need to be the perfect candidate.

Being a great receptionist is a bit like being a superhero in that you’re going to need an entire host of special skills and abilities to rise above the rest of the potential candidates. Because you’re often the first (and sometimes the last) person people interact with when it comes to the company you’re hired to work for, hiring managers are going to hone in on people they think are personable and friendly. But don’t think you’re going to win that interview just because you’ve got a firm handshake and a 10,000 watt smile.

Hiring managers are looking for people who have serious talent when it comes to hard skill sets like clear communication, organization, word processing, schedule and time management, excellent phone skills and writing. They’re also looking for people with soft skills, including problem solving, adaptability, patience, the ability to work under pressure and handle stress, creativity, and in some cases (depending on who you end up working with and the calls you might be fielding), conflict resolution.

So, like we said…a superhero. Minus the cape.

An excellent receptionist has to be able to perform a multitude of jobs and wear a lot of hats (but sorry, like we said…no capes). It’s definitely not a career for the faint-hearted. It’s also not an interview you want to walk into less than prepared (not that any student of The Interview Guys would ever do that…but when it comes to interviewing for a receptionist position, it’s even more critical that you prepare ahead of time.)

(You may also be interested in two of other articles: administrative assistant interview questions and executive assistant interview questions).

We also wanted to let you know that we created an amazing free cheat sheet that will give you word-for-word answers for some of the toughest interview questions you are going to face in your upcoming interview. After all, hiring managers will often ask you more generalized interview questions!

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5 Tips to Help You Prepare For a Receptionist Interview

  1. Dress the part: We’ve already said that the receptionist is in many ways the physical embodiment of the company their representing. Keep that in mind when getting ready for your interview and selecting your wardrobe. Remember, your first impression is the most important. You want the hiring manager to look at you and see someone they would be proud to have represent the company.
  2. Get to know the company personality ahead of time: As weird as it sounds, companies have ‘personalities.’ Often also called ‘culture,’ it’s the overall vibe of a company and is comprised of a number of elements including the work environment, the company values, mission, ethics, goals and expectations. Getting to know that personality before you interview can help you make sure your personality is a good fit and match. For example, the personality of a corporate legal firm would be vastly different than the personality of a toy company. Get a sense ahead of time of the company culture by reading their blog, Facebook posts, or by talking with current and past employees.
  3. Be familiar with the company products and/or services: If they have a product or service that you can try, you should do your best to use it before you go in for your first interview. Be prepared to discuss your experience with the hiring manager if asked.
  4. Be aware of your body language: You’ll be interacting with people all day if hired as the receptionist and will be expected to maintain a professional appearance the entire time you’re at work, including how you present yourself physically. Start off on the right foot by greeting the hiring manager with a genuine smile and a handshake. Make sure to look them in the eye during the interview and engage directly.
  5. Practice communicating clearly and calmly: A big part of being a great receptionist is answering phones and communicating with clients. A hiring manager isn’t going to want to bring someone on who has a hard time communicating clearly. Make sure you’re answering all the questions clearly and calmly. We know you’re nervous, but don’t rush! Don’t interrupt your hiring manger or talk over them either. Remember, a big part of clear communication is not only speaking but listening as well.

Now let’s move onto what types of questions you might be asked when interviewing for a receptionist position.

Top 6 Receptionist Interview Questions You Could Be Asked

You’re more than likely going to have to face your fair share of traditional questions that address those hard skills we talked about above. When prepping for your interview, go over the job description carefully and make sure that your skills match what they’re specifically looking for.

Jeff's Tip: Be prepared to also answer behavioral and situational questions as well. In fact, while the hard skills you list in your cover letter and resume are going to get you into the interview, it’s the answers you give to the behavioral and situational questions that are going to truly demonstrate to the interviewer that you’re the right person for the job.

To help give you an idea of what questions you might be asked and to get you into the right mindset, here are some possible receptionist interview questions and answers for you to practice with.

What is your experience level working with multiple-line phone systems?

My last job included working a desk where we received a high volume of calls. I was responsible for keeping all the incoming calls organized and ensure that they were transferred to the correct recipient in a quick and efficient manner. Even when things are hectic, I take pride in my ability to remain friendly and calm.

What is your word-per-minute rate when typing and what is your error rate?

On average, I’m right at around 80-95 words-per-minute with an accuracy of around ninety percent. I can type faster, but know with increased speed, my accuracy can go down. Regardless, I make sure to re-read everything I type and proofread for grammar and spelling error before sending anything out.

What is your experience level with traditional software programs and office equipment?

I have over 15 years of experience using Windows and the Microsoft Office Suite including Word, Access, Excel and PowePoint. I’m also comfortable with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator and familiar with most standard office equipment including copiers, faxes, and phone systems.

Can you tell me about a time you felt overwhelmed at work and how did you handle that?

In my last job it wasn’t unusual for us to get slammed on Fridays right before the end of the work day, but on one particular Friday we had not only our normal pre-weekend increase in work but were also in the middle of a major office remodel and conducting interviews for new hires. Between answering phones and doing my normal routine work, I also found myself having to coordinate construction workers who were moving furniture from one section to another, while also making sure that the people coming in for interviews were properly checked in. I made sure I stayed calm and collected and prioritized my tasks appropriately. I’m a list maker, so the easiest way I’ve found to stay organized when things are crazy is to immediately write things down. That way things don’t get lost in the heat of the moment. By staying calm and organized, I was able to handle everything that was thrown my way that crazy Friday afternoon.

Can you tell me about a time you had to deal with someone who was upset or angry on the phone?

I had someone call in one time who was obviously very upset. They were demanding to be connected to our CEO directly. The biggest thing you have to remember when dealing with individuals like this is to never take their anger personally or allow it to affect how you deal with them. I was polite and firm and let them know that he was unavailable but that I would be happy to pass along a message to him. By staying calm and listening to his complaint, he was satisfied that his concerns would be passed along, and he calmed down.

Can you tell me about a time you went above and beyond for your job?

One winter we had a particularly bad storm that resulted in several employees being unable to come into work, including the CEO’s personal assistant. Luckily, I was familiar enough with what she had been doing for him it was relatively easy for me to step into that role during her absence. It doubled my workload and I ended up putting in many more hours than I normally do, but it meant that our CEO was able to continue working at his normal pace and stay on top of his schedule. His assistant came back a week later and was ecstatic to see that there wasn’t a huge mountain of work piled up waiting for her. On top of that, our CEO, grateful for the extra work I did without complaining, tucked a gift card into my desk for a meal at my favorite restaurant to say thank you.

10 More Interview Questions For Receptionists That You Could Face

Here are some more questions you could face in your next receptionist interview:

    1. What are your most/least favorite things about being a receptionist?
    2. What is the biggest daily personal challenge you face in this role and what have you done to improve it?
    3. Describe to me the duties you were responsible for in your last position.
    4. What is the extent of your customer service experience?
    5. In your opinion, what role does a receptionist play in contributing to office culture?
    6. What methods do you use to manage your daily schedule?
    7. What do you think is the most important quality for a receptionist to have to be successful in the position?
    8. Are you available to work overtime if necessary?
    9. What experience do you have in handling secure or confidential information?
    10. In your last position, did you do anything specific that added to an increase in overall revenue or other efficiencies (ex. saving time or reducing costs)

Questions You Should Ask At The End of Your Interview

Now that we’ve gone over the potential questions you might be asked in a receptionist interview, let’s flip the tables for a second and talk about the questions you should be asking the hiring manager!

Traditionally as an interview wraps up, a hiring manager will ask if you have any questions you’d like answered. While your first instinct might be to say no, we’re going to strongly encourage you to tamp down that impulse.

Asking questions shows that you’re genuinely interested in the position. It also means when it comes time for you to decide if you want to accept the position or not, that your decision is well informed. Remember, they’re not just interviewing you…you’re also interviewing them and making sure that the job is the right fit for you.

1.”Can you describe to me what a typical day here looks like?”

This is a great question to help you get a feel for what sort of work environment you might find yourself in.

    • Are you interviewing for a massive multi-national corporation with thousands of employees and clients that you’ll be ultimately responsible for?
    • Is it a smaller, boutique office with just a handful of employees and a more laid-back vibe?

Hearing how a typical day breaks down can be a great way to get a feel for what your day might look like if hired.

2. “Are there opportunities for employees to receive additional training or further education?”

Many companies these days want their employees to continue to grow both professionally and personally and may offer formal or informal mentoring programs, coaching and professional training.

Asking this question lets the hiring manager know that you’re interested in continued professional growth and development.

3. “Can you tell me what attracted you to this company and what your favorite part of working here is?”

This question will give you a good feel for the culture of the company you’re interviewing for in a way that is far deeper than what you may have already gleaned from your previous research. If the hiring manager tells you they were attracted to the paycheck and that their favorite part is leaving at the end of the day…it might be time to look for another company to interview with!

In all seriousness, listen carefully to how they answer this question. Ideally you want to hear that they genuinely like the work they’re doing and that they feel satisfied in their position.

Putting It All Together

It’s always good practice to follow up your interview with a thank you to the hiring manger for the opportunity. Make sure you get their contact information before you leave and follow up with a brief message letting them know you appreciated the time they took to interview you.

It’s also a great opportunity to reaffirm your interest in the company and the position you interviewed for.

That does it for our comprehensive guide to answering receptionist interview questions! You should now feel ready to go into your interview and knock it out of the park.

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About The Author

Jeff Gillis

Co-founder and CTO of Jeff is a featured contributor delivering advice on job search, job interviews and career advancement, having published more than 50 pieces of unique content on the site, with his work being featured in top publications such as INC, ZDnet, MSN and more. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.