May 21

Hiring the right receptionist – Part 4

In this series, I’ve been sharing with you some of the things I do when hiring receptionists to work with ABS Office clients.  To recap: Part 1 talked about preparing by creating a position description. Part 2 gave you some insights into how and where to advertise your role. Part 3 was all about shortlisting your candidates for interviews.

Now we’ll talk about the interview.

Interview questions

How you run your interviews depends on you and your business. I plan the interviews in advance, by preparing questions that I will ask each of the candidates. I need to ask each candidate a specific set of questions, to give me a baseline for comparison. Beyond that, I use the candidate’s answers as prompts for further questions. Sometimes a candidate will have a rehearsed answer to common questions – it’s my job to dig a little deeper and ensure that there is substance behind their answers. I want to make sure they’re not just telling me what they think I want to hear!

Here’s a couple of links to articles that may help when you’re setting your questions:

Smartcompany – The five most important questions to ask job candidates – Weed Out the Wrong Hires Fast: 7 Interview Questions

Remember, this is a role that requires a good attitude towards customers, be they happy or mad. So include questions about how they handled a customer complaint or a time when they received good feedback from a customer. Ask them about their motives for doing what they did.

Be prepared for the interviews

It’s imperative that you set the right tone from the beginning, so I ensure that as soon as that candidate walks in the door, we’re ready to get down to business. The things I always have in front of me during interviews are:

  • The questions
  • The candidate’s cover letter and resume
  • The advertisement copy

Prepare your questions on a form. Ensure that you leave space for the candidate’s name as well as a space after each question so you can write down the candidate’s answer. Don’t think that you’re going to remember their answers! You won’t. Write down their answers, even in abbreviated form. This is important.

I suggest that you also read through each resume and highlight specific things you want to explore with the candidate – for example, they may mention a specific project that they worked on and you would like to know more about their performance on that project. Again, this pre-work is important. The interview needs to flow smoothly so you can can maximise the value you get from the time.


Interviewing and assessing candidates

I try to interview at least three people, but never more than five. Quite often, I have had at least one interviewee just not turn up, no phone call, nothing. I don’t chase them. It shows a level of disrespect that has no place in my business. If I feel the need to, I will call the people on my ‘Maybe’ list and invite them in for an interview. I only do this when I have had a poor showing of interviewees or I’m not convinced that I have found the right person among those that I have interviewed.

During the interview, I try to make the candidates as comfortable as possible. In our business, we need people who can be warm and friendly with everyone they meet. I set them at ease in an effort to see their real personality. I observe how they establish rapport with me and any other interviewers. We’re not there to socialise however, so I also observe how the candidate manages their responses. If they tend to ramble, it could be a sign that they won’t be able to control conversations on the phone. Alternatively, if they’re stilted and uncomfortable in giving their answers, they may come across as unfriendly on the phone. We need a good balance between courtesy and efficiency.

I also take notice of how well the candidates speak. Do they speak clearly or do they mumble? Do they articulate themselves coherently or are they using too many ‘filler’ words (eg ‘like’, ‘you know’)? We speak to a wide range of people every day, so a clear speaking voice is critical.

There are other things you can do to ensure you choose the right person. You can ask the candidates to demonstrate particular skills, such as their proficiency with computer based work or particular machines. You can also ask them to come in for a trial, which under most circumstances will have to be paid at the minimum hourly rate for the role. This will require completion of paperwork equivalent to actually employing them for the job, so you really need to be sure this person is a strong candidate for the role.

In the next and final part, I will talk about how to formalise the apppointment of your new receptionist.

If you’re interested in seeing how we can streamline your receptionist service for you, please click here. Any one of the Sohovian team will be happy to discuss our services with you.

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