Top 6 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.)

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 C