How to Hire a Great Receptionist

by Katherine Porfilio | Follow on Twitter

Learn the most important qualities and characteristics to hire your receptionist, and get free scripts to make it an easy transition.

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The quality of the people who surround you and support your vision are one of the most important elements to building a successful practice.

The right person can make or break a business–they can be the glue that holds everything together or they can tear at the very fabric of what you have built. You have most likely experienced either end of this spectrum or variations in between.

That being said, the hiring process is not to be taken lightly.

Before we look at the details of the hiring process, let’s first look at the top 6 qualities of a great receptionist:

  1. A strong work ethic -roll up your sleeves, let’s get this job done type of person
  2. A passion for learning -always seeking opportunities to learn more
  3. A great attitude -never discouraged, persistent, the word “quit” isn’t in their vocabulary
  4. They want to work for a great company/practice -the best employees want to work for great companies
  5. They are coachable -eager to receive help and to help others, too
  6. Have impeccable character -looks for ways to improve themselves

These qualities are the evidence of something intrinsically valuable, which I’d like to elaborate on next.

Character vs. Skills

Unfortunately, most companies have the hiring process completely backwards– they start reviewing a list of skills and then consider the personality or qualities of a person. This is a mistake.

The most effective approach to finding the best employees is to hire for

  1. character first and
  2. skills second

Skills can be learned, but true character is a trait that you either have or you don’t.

Here are 6 key characteristics that form the foundation of those who possess the qualities in the above list.

  1. Integrity. Integrity relates to the quality and steadfastness of someone’s character. This represents a person who is honorable, ethical, compassionate and trustworthy. A receptionist represents you and your practice. They are the face of your business and interact with every single patient (which is why this is number one on my list). A single negative experience with a receptionist can turn someone off for good and reflect poorly on you and your practice.
  2. Motivation. What are their goals? What is most important to them? It is important to understand and identify a candidate’s motivation (as expressed by their goals). Do they align with yours? If not, it may not be a good fit.
  3. Capacity. Do they have the ability to learn and grow? Are they coachable? This doesn’t mean just an ability to understand concepts. This relates to humility, openness and teachability.
  4. Understanding. Do they understand the value of what you provide and offer? Are they inspired by the passion of your vision and dreams? Can they see their own potential as a part of your team?
  5. Knowledge. What knowledge do they already possess? How valuable is that knowledge?
  6. Experience. Yes, this is the last criteria in making the proper selection. Is experience important? Absolutely, but only if it coincides with the number one criteria–integrity.

It’s interesting to note that the word “character” originates from the Greek word kharakter (engraved mark or imprint on the soul).

What we’ve done so far is to set the groundwork of understanding for the type of person that you’re looking for. The next step is to learn how to identify this individual during the hiring process.

The Hiring Process

Step 1: Preparation

Before interviewing, take the time to answer the questions in this checklist:

  1. What is the purpose of hiring? (i.e. expansion/addition to existing staff or to replace someone)
  2. Who will do the interviewing – initial screening/final interview?
  3. Determine how you will you find your candidates (all of these are valid methods depending on budget and time):
    1. Referral/recommendations
    2. Place an ad
    3. Hire a professional recruiter
    4. Patients
  4. Do you have a written job description with expectations and responsibilities?
  5. What training will be provided? (and by whom)
  6. What compensation and benefits will you be offering?
  7. What assets do you expect to receive from them? (i.e. cover letter, resume, references)

Step 2: First Interview by Phone Script

The purpose of the first phone interview is to establish credibility, to learn about your potential candidate and to explain the career opportunity. Be prepared to share information about you and your practice, your vision and dreams, the “big picture” of what you and your practice stands for and what sets you apart.

Once you start receiving responses to your job postings, you will then review the incoming resumes/applications. Start contacting those that you are interested in to set up a phone interview. This enables you to get a feel for would-be candidates to cherry pick those who you would like to come in for an in-person interview.

Download my First Interview by Phone Script, read through it and come back to this guide.

Pro Tip: Stick with the script. Don’t waste your time asking more questions about them or elaborating too much about your practice. By the end of this initial call, you will know whether you want to ask them to come in for an in-person interview.

Step 3: In-Person Interview

Once you have completed the First Interview by Phone, you should have a few appointments set up for In-Person Interviews.

Download my In-Person Interview Analysis Form, read through it and come back to this guide.

During the in-person interview, take brief notes as the interviewee is speaking (try to maintain as much eye contact as possible). At the end of the script, I always like to ask if they have any questions for me.

Inform your candidate of any short- and long-term goals and expectations that you may have, training provided, compensation and benefits.

At the very end of the interview, I will ask them directly:

“Does this sound like an opportunity that you are interested in?”

If they say yes…

“Excellent, we’re still in the interviewing process and I’ll get back with you by ____________”

If they say no…

“Thank you so much for coming in–I appreciate your time and wish you the best of luck with future endeavors.”

Pro Tip: Stick to the script –you don’t have to ask every single one of the questions in the script, but make sure you ask one or two in each category.

Step 4: Offers and Rejections

Once you have selected your ideal candidate, write an offer letter to them with a sentence about why they were selected. I always send thank you emails to those who were not selected (if they came into interview, not for phone interviews).

Here is an example acceptance letter:

Dear ________________

Thank you for taking the time to interview with (interviewer name). I’m pleased to offer you the receptionist position at (practice name). Your (reasons why they were selected) will be an ideal fit.

Please contact me no later than ____________________ to accept or decline the offer. If you have questions about the position, please contact me at (phone number or email).

Congratulations! I look forward to welcoming you to the (practice name) team.

Sincerely,

For those who came in for an in-person interview who were not a good fit, here is a sample rejection letter:

Thank you coming into interview at (practice name) and your interest in the receptionist position. After a careful review of each candidate’s qualifications and a lengthy interview process, another candidate was offered, and has accepted the position. At this time, we are not able to offer you a position.

Though you were not selected for this position, I hope you will again consider applying to our company when future position vacancies correspond to your qualifications and career objectives.

Thank you again for taking the time to interview for the position, and I wish you luck in your personal and professional endeavors.

Sincerely,

Pro-tip: Before sending out your rejection letter(s), wait until your prime candidate has accepted. If for some reason, they are not able to or have decided not to accept the position, you can then select a secondary candidate.

Hiring Etiquette

There is a basic hiring etiquette that should be followed:

  1. Follow-up. If you interviewed with someone, don’t leave them hanging – let them know if they were not chosen (note: you don’t have to thank everyone who applied, only those who have interviewed with you)
  2. Ditch the form letter and write a personalized rejection letter. If you took the time to interview someone and they took the time to meet with you, it’s professional to notify them. It will also leave a positive impression in their mind about you and your practice.
  3. If someone asks for feedback or has gone out of their way to provide you with additional information and they are not chosen, let them know why they were not chosen.

A negative hiring experience is one that gets told and retold and can create a negative impression about you and your practice. Consider this a part of your practice public relations.

A Final Note About Marketing, Hiring and Your Ad Copy

Before we conclude, I want to mention something about your ad copy. This is where the “marketing” part of hiring begins. Every touch point with your candidates has a marketing component.

Hiring works like a funnel. Your ad is at the widest part of the funnel (as it reaches the most people), the phone script is the next, mid-range level and your in-person interview is the smallest part of the funnel.

When you write your ad, make sure it reflects the qualities that you are looking for and the expectations that you have. Don’t be afraid to put personality in your ad as well. You are selling yourself to find someone who complements you and your practice.

One of the key purposes of marketing is to connect your products or services with people to fill a legitimate need that they have. In hiring, you are connecting prospective employees with something they need and you are receiving something that you need.

I hope all of this helps and wish you the best of success in finding a new (and amazing) receptionist!

About the Author
Katherine Porfilio

Katherine Porfilio is a Holistic Health Marketing Consultant who helps Naturopathic Doctors attract their ideal patient and build a successful practice. Author of The Marketing Manual for Naturopathic Doctors, Katherine has spent over fourteen years serving clients in the healthcare industry–from solo practitioners, busy clinics and wellness spas to online natural pharmacies and nutritional supplement companies. Katherine is the founder of Stark Raven Design, a boutique marketing and design agency that caters to practitioners and President of QEd Motivational, host of the HearthLight Event (The North Georgia Symposium on Holistic and Integrative Medicine).