June 4

Hiring the right receptionist – Part 5

In this series, we’ve looked at a process you can follow when hiring your new receptionist. I’ve shared tips about what I do when Sohovian is hiring new team members. Because our team members are actually receptionists, sitting at a desk, greeting clients and visitors to our serviced offices, we need more than just good phone skills. We need people who present themselves professionally, who are reliable and who can turn their hand to the multitude of tasks that a receptionist must undertake.

Deciding who to hire

This would sometimes have to be the most difficult part of the entire process. This is where the human element really comes in. Everything up to this point has been process driven, but now you actually have to make a decision and let people know whether they have or have not been successful. Quite often, I’ve found that one person, in particular, has stood out from everyone else. So in that case, the exercise of offering them the role and bringing them on board is effortless. When there are 2 or more people whom I would really like to employ, the job becomes a little more challenging.

If I’m really struggling with the decision, I go back over their responses to my questions.

  • Did they clearly articulate their response or did I have to ask the question another way to get a clear response?
  • Did they consider their response or answer straight away?
  • Did they seem to have a grasp of the principles of customer service, or did it sound like they were just regurgitating a good story?

The other thing I always note is how they greeted me. Did they have a firm, friendly handshake? It might sound silly, but a “wet fish” handshake indicates to me that this person is a little meek and may struggle to sound confident on the phone. By the same token, I don’t want them to hug and kiss me, like I’m a long-lost friend! I just need them to be confident and sociable.

Furthermore, their ability to meet my eye during the interview does make a difference. When you’re the Director of First Impressions, the first thing you need to do when someone walks in the door is to look them in the eye and acknowledge their presence – even if you are on the phone.

There are a few other things I’ll briefly mention:

  • Likability – did we establish a good rapport in the interview?
  • Attitude – Did I feel that the person had a mature outlook coupled with an easygoing nature that would support them during stressful times?
  • Availability – For part-time roles, this is important. Can I rely on this person being available to work when others are on leave or sick?
  • Likely tenure – I did say that we like ‘keepers’, so I need to assess whether this person is likely to stay for a reasonable amount of time so that I and my clients get the value from the training we will provide.

Above all though, there are some things that cannot be used as a reason to not employ someone. They include gender, race, religion, political persuasion or age. Quite apart from the legalities of it, discrimination can cost your business a lot in terms of the benefits of diversity and new ideas. Forget the stereotypes, because in my business, I have had team members aged 40-something who were more tech-savvy than the young ones and millennials with a work ethic that would shame a baby boomer. Judge each individual on how well THEY could do the job.

Offering the role

Fair Work Australia has guidelines on what to do when hiring a new employee. You should certainly take these into account when preparing your paperwork.

I always contact the successful applicant first and confirm that they are willing and able to take the role. That’s probably a given, but I’m putting it out there anyway. I will confirm a start date and time and advise them of the things they need to bring with them:

  • Tax File Number
  • Bank account details
  • Superannuation details

It’s important to follow up the phone call with a formal letter of offer. I generally provide that, along with all the other paperwork, on the first day. We will have discussed pay rates, hours etc at the interview and when I call to offer the position so the paperwork just confirms what we’ve already talked about. If there’s a substantial time gap between making the offer and the person’s first day, then the letter of offer should go out to them before they start.

I then contact the people who came in for an interview, personally, and let them know they were unsuccessful and why. Yes, it’s hard. If someone has taken the time to come and meet with you, then it is only courteous to speak with them personally. If I can’t get them on the phone, only then will I send them an email.

I also send emails to everyone else who applied for the role advising them that they were unsuccessful.

Welcoming your new receptionist

business woman with phone and notebook working at office

The day is here! Your new Receptionist, Director of First Impressions, Front Office Manager, whichever title you wish to apply to this role, is here and ready to start work. It’s tempting, especially if you’ve been run off your feet doing it all yourself, to just sit them down and show them the phone. DON’T DO IT! You’ll leave them feeling isolated and out of their depth. The last thing you want, after all this effort to employ them, is to have them thinking about quitting on their first day.

Start their day with introductions. Introduce them to everyone with whom they are likely to have contact in their first two or three days. Be careful not to overload them with too many new faces. We introduce our new receptionists to our serviced office clients as a start. We also have a group video chat on Skype to introduce them to the rest of the Sohovian team. There is a Health and Safety briefing on location of amenities and evacuation points. We then begin an induction. This will involve a lot of reading, videos, and face to face discussions. All new team members read and sign a Confidentiality Agreement, Use of Systems Agreement, Code of Conduct etc.

The point of the induction is to bring the person ‘into the fold’, make them feel part of a cohesive team and encourage them to work with that team. This creates a solid foundation for them to work from. They’ll seek help from the team when they get stuck, rather than waiting until you’re available. Only when the induction has been completed do we begin the process of training our new team member on our systems, procedures and client requirements.

If you’re thinking you need to review your recruitment process, then I strongly recommend that you contact a company that provides assistance to employers. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland (www.cciq.com.au) has an Employer Assistance Line for its members. They are someone you can call on for extra help should things go pear-shaped.

I hope this series has helped you to at least get an idea of what you need to do when employing your new receptionist. If you feel that your business isn’t quite ready for a full-time receptionist but you still need help with customer care, then we may be able to help. Call us on 07 3401 9777 or fill in our Contact form and we’ll send you some further information about our services.

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