Receptionist Interview Questions

A Receptionist will typically be the first person your clients interact with when entering your place of business. It is important to choose someone who can deal effectively with a variety of people and represent your company well. A strong candidate is one who will remain gracious and professional at all times regardless of how challenging an inquiry or client may be.   

During your Receptionist interview, be sure to assess your candidate’s ability to handle a variety of tasks at once as they will be responsible for receiving calls and visitors, scheduling appointments, forwarding inquiries to appropriate staff, sending emails, and the like. Some tasks may be repetitive, so find out what motivates your candidate and determine if it’s enough to keep them performing at a high level over time. Depending on the nature of your business, you can focus on candidates who are less experienced but otherwise qualified and eager to learn, or you can hire someone who is experienced and will require limited training.  

General interview questions (such as “Can you tell me about yourself?” and “Why are you looking for another job?”) are a great way to get to know your candidate’s personal history, interests and goals. However, be sure to add inquiries specific to the role they’re interviewing for, so you can gain valuable insights into their likelihood of success in that position. 

Below are Receptionist interview questions to help you get started: 

Tell me about a time when you received a disgruntled client’s call or visit. How did you handle it?

What you want to hear: As the first point of contact in the company, a Receptionist will at times be exposed to disgruntled callers or visitors. An experienced Receptionist should be able to readily share a story about a previous difficult encounter. You want to hear about the candidate’s ability to maintain composure, listen attentively to the issue or concern, offer a solution or appropriately direct the inquiry to the right person in the organization, and generally do their best to help the customer or client leave the encounter satisfied. Candidates new to the role should think about another context when they may have had to manage a difficult person, such as an incident on a different job or a conflict between friends.

Red Flag IconRed flag: A candidate who has limited skills for dealing with conflict independently may become frustrated themselves and damage your company’s reputation, or they will place an additional burden on their supervisor who is called upon to resolve each such situation. 

Why is a Receptionist an important role in an organization?

What you want to hear: A strong candidate will understand the contribution a Receptionist makes to the smooth operations of any organization. Listen for a candidate who can explain that customer service begins when a caller or visitor speaks with the Receptionist, and that being professional, courteous, and helpful enhances the company’s reputation while making the job easier for any staff member who will be forwarded the inquiry. 

Red Flag IconRed flag: If a candidate thinks being a Receptionist is of little value to your company they may not serve your customers or clients with the appropriate level of attention or respect. 

If you arrived at work to 50 emails but could only answer 20 promptly, what would you do?

What you want to hear: This question can help you assess your candidate’s critical thinking skills. Listen for a candidate who will consider the priorities that are meaningful to the company and its staff. For example, should new business inquiries be handled first? Or are messages left for top executives more important? Or is a complaint by a client a top concern? Based on those priorities, an experienced candidate may further explain that they would organize the 50 emails by using  a filter to sort by topic, manually grouping emails by sender, and reading through subject lines.  

Red Flag IconRed flag: A candidate who provides a vague answer or appears to narrow the list by random selection rather than factors important to the conduct of the business is a high risk of attending to insignificant matters while matters of urgency are delayed or left unattended altogether. 

What can you tell me about the culture of this company? Why would you be a good fit here?

What you want to hear: A strong candidate will prepare for the interview by studying all available public information about your company. For example, they might have reviewed the company website, read articles in trade publications, and obtained insights from current or former employees. Based on their research, the candidate should be able to discuss if they believe your company culture is professional and traditional like a financial institution or law firm, or if it’s more casual and creative like a technology startup or marketing agency. Listen for a candidate who can then explain why they would thrive in your environment based on their personality, working style, and personal goals.

Red Flag IconRed flag: A candidate who is a mismatch for your company culture has the potential for not getting along well with peers, underperforming their duties, and resigning early to move to another company

You may be given sensitive documents or files to hold for pick up or delivery. What does the duty of confidentiality mean to you?

What you want to hear: A Receptionist may have access to a range of sensitive documents or files from time to time. This could include confidential information about employees or clients, or perhaps even business transactions or other non-public company information. These documents or files may be delivered from a third party outside of the office, or left at the receptionist’s desk by one employee for pick up by another employee. A strong candidate will acknowledge the importance of maintaining discretion at all times, and share specific ways they would safeguard such information. For example, they might say that they would keep confidential information out of view on the receptionist’s desk, always place such material in a secure location when stepping away from the desk, and never participate in office gossip with co-workers.    

Red Flag IconRed flag: A candidate who isn’t aware of the basics of confidentiality and the need for discretion when they are exposed to sensitive information is a risk for creating legal liability for the company in the event of an inappropriate or unlawful disclosure. 

If you had to choose, which would you clean first – your room, work desk, or car?

What you want to hear: The exact answer is less important than the thought process your candidate uses when explaining their answer. For example, what advantage does cleaning their room first have over cleaning their car? What value do they seem to place on maintaining an orderly work desk? The question is a great way to see how well your candidate can come up with a spontaneous, unscripted answer, a skill set that can be useful when fielding unexpected inquiries from potential or current clients. 

Red Flag IconRed flag: A candidate who cannot think on their feet, or gets flustered by an unfamiliar request, is a risk for not providing the best information or service to your clients and staff. 

Every interview question can help get you closer to the right fit for your Receptionist position.

Be sure to keep an eye out for candidates who:

  • Have superior interpersonal skills
  • Can manage time and multitask efficiently
  • Understand the importance of confidentiality