Every Interaction Matters: A Receptionist Tell-All

Receptionists get a bad rap. We’re seen in most movies and TV shows as being useless and incompetent (think of Peggy on the first season of Mad Men before she showed what she was made of). They’re hired to be eye candy or make a cup of coffee for the boss. While we may actually get a coffee or two from time to time, we are most definitely not useless.

As the first face you see when you walk into our company, I, the dubbed 'receptionist', am able to interact with a lot of new individuals on a daily basis. Some of what you read here may seem obvious to those who possess an understanding of empathy and intrapersonal relationships, or, in other words, those with a high emotional intelligence (EQ). But one of the things I knew before I started and have experienced all too often in this field is that many people, even high level managers, lack EQ.  

As your first contact I’m someone who will see you without your full game face on. The way your eyes glance nervously around as you’re forcing a smile. Or the way you stutter the hiring manager's name. It’s a great indication of how you act when you’re nervous or in a position in which you’re unsure of the outcome. In a word, I’m one of the only people who gets to see the ‘real’, or unguarded, you.

Having studied psychology in college, I never expected to be working in an administrative position, but here I am! Being in this role for over a year, I can tell right off the bat if someone will mesh well with the culture we have here. Using my psych background, I’m able to observe someone’s behavior and body language and predict if they’ll make an impact or if they’re just not cut out for our startup lifestyle, which is a huge value to the company as I am the first line of defense (and in many cases the last line, as well). So you definitely don’t want to be the type of person who ends up leaving a poor impression.

The truth is, the receptionist greeting is your first interview. And here’s an industry insider tip: hiring managers will reconnect with me to get my opinion on anything I’ve noticed after you leave. There are the typical questions: Were they late? Were they polite? Did you enjoy interacting with them?

All interactions are important, so if you’ve made an impact, whether it was good or bad, I’m going to remember it.

I had a potential hire who came in 20 minutes late to a 30 minute interview who walked right past me with their nose stuck in their phone. They were so oblivious that I had to get up, raise my voice, and tell them they couldn’t just walk through the office. They were annoyed; rolled their eyes and told me who was expecting them. I got them situated as the hiring manager rolled up. It was that exact moment the applicant transformed into a different person – calm, cool, and collected. They ended up staying later than scheduled and both the interviewee and hiring manager came out all smiles. Of course, being a part of the interview process the hiring manager reconnected with me after. Once I told them about the applicant's initial behavior, they did not get the job. grin

To stay out of the “unhireable behavior playbook”, I’ve compiled a few simple, yet key behaviors you should showcase to ensure you get a good word in.

1.) Don’t show up without an invitation.

By virtue of just showing up, you’re not taking into consideration the workflow you are disrupting. Receptionists have their own multitude of tasks that they’re trying to find time to finish just like everyone else at the company. We have a procedure already in place for collecting candidates (online) that is fast and efficient. I mean, heck, we’re a digital company. If you come in and hand me your resume - I will place it to the side and it will never see the actual theoretical pile that we use to sort through qualified job applicants.

If you truly want to get your name out there, apply in the areas stated in the job description and call at least a week after submission. Chances are we haven’t gotten to you yet, but that quick (friendly) chat where you tell me your name will stick in my mind once we go through the list. Just don’t call too many times. If you don’t know what too many times is… well, I don’t think this would be the right job for you.

2.) Greet the person sitting behind the front desk.

While this should be rudimentary, you may be surprised how often it’s overlooked. This small interaction can make a huge impact and be the key to getting a successful second interview or call back. A simple “hello” or “good morning” shows me you’re taking the initiative to interact with me as a human being. If you pass up the greeting, I assume that you are viewing our interaction as time consuming and pointless. I can assure you it’s not.

3.) Introduce yourself.

It’s amazing how often job candidates forget to come up and say “Hi, I’m...” With multiple visitors a day, names can sometimes be tricky and introductions show that you understand my role as an important part of the interview process. I am dubbed the ‘Gatekeeper” for a reason! I wouldn’t be doing my job if I allowed everyone to bypass me and walk right in. A name means I can confirm that you’re supposed to be here and help you get to your meeting as quickly as possible.

4.) Don’t wander around unless invited.

You wouldn’t just walk around someone’s house without being invited in, would you? I’m more than happy to show you around if you’d like, but just like a house, our company has closed doors. We don’t really appreciate just anyone barging into it.

5.) Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Asking questions shows you are interested in the space, the company, and the position. It means you’re interested in learning new things and are comfortable putting yourself out there. Take advantage of the 5 to 10 minute pre-interview window to learn more about your potential work environment. Any questions you ask me about the company or space could be repurposed in the actual interview with the hiring manager. Interviewers love it when prospective employees show that they’ve researched the company.

Here’s another tip: instead of spending hours trying to dig up details or good questions about the company on Indeed or Linkedin, get to the interview 5 minutes early and chat with the receptionists about the company. Ten times out of ten you’ll learn something specific about the work environment, which you can then bring up in the actual interview.

6.) Honestly, just be nice.

Manners go a long way here. Civility and morale are the lifeblood of a company (and especially a startup). If a potential hire even gives a hint of being rude or self-centered, they are never seen or heard from again – no matter how brilliant they might be. I’m far more likely to give you a good rating if you’ve said the magic words. As always, this is my job, but it’s nice to hear appreciation once in a while. Being polite also shows that you’re taking this interview seriously and truly want to make a good impression. Something that speaks well of your character.

Remember, every interaction matters. So take that into consideration the next time you walk into a company for an interview. Whether it’s here at Digital Surgeons or somewhere else, the person behind that front desk is far more important than you think.

I am more than “just” a receptionist. I am the first and last line of defense. I can assure you that following the easy tips above is your best bet to make a lasting impression with someone who has a bit more say in the matter than you may think.

Think you might be a good fit for Digital Surgeons? Check out our job openings here.