Walking into the office, you are often greeted by the receptionist with a warm “hello, how can I help you?” Or sometimes, the receptionist seems to be just staring at you, waiting for your answer to a question he or she never asked. And in some cases, the receptionist simply just says “yes?”
What is your initial reaction? Do you react the way he or she does – meet a smile with a smile or return cold stare with a cold stare? How do you talk to the receptionist – in a friendly and sweet demeanour or direct and cold?
Well, regardless whether the receptionist is friendly and polite or rude and impatient, he or she can be an important part of your job search and career development. So it’s vital to make a positive impression and behave professionally and sweet–this person can be your ally in your job search!
What are the benefits of having a receptionist as an ally?
Well, let’s look at one of the main responsibilities of a receptionist. He or she is the gatekeeper of the office and direct inquiries to the appropriate person or location. The receptionist’s job is to “protect” busy managers from unnecessary disturbances. That also means he or she allows people to “enter” and talk to the managers. If you want a meeting with an employer (possibly to introduce yourself or to set up an appointment with a manager), the receptionist could you be your roadblock. Be polite and courteous to the receptionist. If he or she is not busy, strike up a conversation. If the receptionist is willing to continue the conversation, you are probably starting to have a new ally and he or she might be able to bend the rules a little to allow you to meet the manager. You just might have now passed the gatekeeper!
Another thing to be aware is that the receptionist’s opinions are valued as often he or she has been hired for his or her judgement and knowledge of the organization’s culture and work ethics. Because of that, managers will sometimes ask the receptionist for opinions about the job seeker or interviewee and use these views in the hiring decision process. Making a good impression with the receptionist means that this information will be passed on to the employer.
Lastly, if the job applicant treats others such as the receptionist, employees in the front area or even waiting clients badly, especially when the manager is not around, what message or impression will people have of this person’s character? Making a good first impression with everyone within the organization is important. An employer wants to hire a person who can work with everyone on the team, others in different teams and clients.
How can you make a receptionist your ally? Well, for starters be nice and courteous. If he or she is busy and you don’t have an appointment, be flexible and ask if there is a better time to ask questions. Prepare your speech so that you do not take up too much time by fumbling with your introduction and questions. Try to create a genuine connection. Many have suggested that job seekers try to use the name of the receptionist in the conversation, especially when you are thanking him or her such as “Thank you, Susan. You were a great help!” Make a positive impression by being professional, polite, friendly and of course sweet!
About the Author: Jennifer York is the manager of the Job Options BC program in Vancouver, Surrey and Port Coquitlam for ISSofBC. While working as an employment counsellor, she facilitated and coached immigrants, professionals and students in their job search, both in group and individualized sessions. Please click here for information on ISSofBC’s career services.