AskDefine | Define receptionist

Dictionary Definition

receptionist n : a secretary whose main duty is to answer the telephone and receive visitors

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. One who receives visitors or calls, typically in an office setting.
  2. Alternative name for a secretary.

Related terms


One who receives visitors or calls, typically in an office setting
Alternative name for a secretary

Extensive Definition

A receptionist is a person in an office/administrative support position. The work is usually performed in a waiting area such as a lobby or front office desk of an organization or business. The title "receptionist" is attributed to the person who is specifically employed by an organization to greet any visitors, patients, or clients.
A receptionist is usually expected to have a high school diploma or the equivalent, but a receptionist may also possess a vocational certificate/diploma in business and office administration. Although a post secondary degree is not normally required for this position, some receptionists may hold four year university degrees in a variety of majors. Some receptionists may even hold advanced degrees.
The business duties of a receptionist may include: answering visitor inquiries about a company and its products or services, directing visitors to their destinations, sorting mail, answering incoming calls on multi-line telephones or a switchboard, setting appointments, filing, records keeping, keyboarding/data entry and performing a variety of other office tasks, such as faxing or emailing. Some receptionists may also perform bookkeeping or cashiering duties. Some, but not all, offices may expect the receptionist to serve coffee or tea to guests, and to keep the lobby area tidy.
A receptionist may also assume some security guard access control functions for an organization by verifying employee identification, issuing visitor passes, and by observing and reporting any unusual or suspicious persons or activities.
A receptionist is often the first business contact a person will meet at any organization. It is an expectation of most organizations that the receptionist maintain a calm, courteous and professional demeanor at all times regardless of the visitor's behavior. Some personal qualities that a receptionist is expected to have in order to do the job successfully include: attentiveness, a well groomed appearance, initiative, loyalty, maturity, respect for confidentiality and discretion, a positive attitude and dependability. At times, the job may be stressful due to interaction with many different people with different types of personalities, and being expected to perform multiple tasks quickly.
Depending upon the industry, a receptionist position can be considered a low-ranking, dead end or servile position, or it could be perceived as having a certain veneer of glamor with opportunities for networking in order to advance to other positions within a specific field. Some people may use this type of job as a way to familiarize oneself with office work, or to learn of other functions or positions within a corporation. Some people use receptionist work as a way to earn money while pursuing further educational opportunities or other career interests such as in the performing arts or as writers.
While many persons working as receptionists continue in that position throughout their careers, some receptionists may advance to other administrative jobs such as customer service representative, dispatcher, interviewers, secretary, production assistant, personal assistant, Marketing and executive assistant. In smaller businesses, such as doctor's or lawyer's office, a receptionist may also be the office manager who is charged with a diversity of middle management level business operations. When receptionists leave the job, they often enter other career fields such as sales and marketing, public relations or other media occupations.
A few famous people were receptionists in the beginning, such as Betty Williams, a co-recipient of the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize. A number of celebrities had worked as receptionists before they became famous, such as singer/songwriter Naomi Judd and the late entrepreneur/Beatle wife Linda McCartney Other famous people who began their careers as receptionists or worked in the field include civil rights activist Rosa Parks and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.
The advancement of office automation has eliminated some receptionists' jobs. For example, a telephone call could be answered by a computer. However, a receptionist who possesses strong office/technical skills and who is also adept in courtesy, tact and diplomacy is still considered an asset to a company's business image, and is still very much in demand in the business world.
receptionist in Catalan: Recepcionista
receptionist in Spanish: Recepcionista
receptionist in Dutch: Receptionist
receptionist in Chinese: 接待員
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