The Receptionists’ Guidebook


How to get a corporate receptionist job… and then quickly get promoted!!!

(Written by Jane Thompson – an ex-FOH Manager and Independent Reception Consultant)



  • Receptionist cover letter – the truth.
  • Receptionist Resume – Top tips on creating your CV to make sure you get noticed


  • Reception Interview Techniques
  • Three of the toughest questions your interviewer could ask you…. and how to answer them without getting into trouble.

CHAPTER THREE How to keep a job on reception

  • Now you’ve got your dream job how to make sure you keep it


  • Insider’s guide to getting that promotion


  • Receptionist salary – How much can I expect to earn?
  • Front of House Magazine – fun and true anecdotes from receptionists in London
  • How to impress your boss – FOH Managers reveal their ideas for improving reception client care.

Remember to checkout our receptionists’ inspirational stories and many other articles in our FOH Magazine section including ‘how I went the extra mile and won the receptionist of the year award!”


The web is full of advice on how to write a CV and it can seem very confusing with so many templates and variations. However here we will give you tailored advice which is specific to landing that high paying corporate reception role. I have no idea how a CV should look for a candidate hoping to land a job in IT, finance, or fishing, however after 10 years as an FOH Manager and 5 as a consultant placing receptionists within blue chip companies, I do know what will attract the attention of an HR recruiter looking for that perfect receptionist.

So here goes – CV secrets – How to get your CV noticed for high paying reception roles by HR Recruitment Insider

  • Profile at the top
    Two sentences – summarising who you are, what you’re looking for and why you are suited to the role.
  • Job titles
    If you were a receptionist then say you were a receptionist, don’t call yourself an administrator or PA – this is likely to have your application rejected right there and then. Reception managers want to employ someone who really wants to be a receptionist. They want to employ someone who really enjoys meeting people; someone who is passionate and proud about providing excellent customer service.
  • Layout
    Make sure your CV is nice and easy to read. Here you can find our suggestion for a receptionist CV template 

Don’t spend hours on this. It would be better to concentrate your time on making your CV reader-friendly. HR professionals have very little time to read lengthy cover letters.
Some sites request a receptionist cover letter, so it’s best to write one anyway, it can be super-short and to the point, a paragraph would do.
The only time a receptionist cover letter can really help is if it is explaining something that is wrong with your CV. For instance – if you have just left school and don’t have anything else on your CV, then a short professional, friendly, enthusiastic, articulate cover letter may help to paint the picture a little and fill in the gaps.
Is there a special receptionist template?
Reception CVs follow the same rule as any other CVs. Name at the top. Then a Personal Profile, followed by your Key Skills. Beneath this list your Employment History – starting with the current role – going back in time. At the end list your education and any relevant courses, any languages and finally your hobbies.


TOP TIP #1 NO NOs!!!!

DO NOT write you have excellent attention to detail and spell ‘detail’ wrong! You will not believe how many spelling mistakes are in the opening profile. Remember spellcheck sometimes suggests the wrong word and before you know it you’ve hit the return key and you now have ‘cave’ instead of ‘CV’ (believe it or not this is a very common error)


  • Liaising – not liasing
  • Whenever – it’s one word, not when ever
  • Tact and diplomacy – Often spelt tack and diplomacy – once again it’s not underlined in red as it is spelt correctly but is the wrong word in this context
  • Cooperate Receptionist – you probably mean Corporate
  • Costumers – instead of Customers


The title above is spelt incorrectly, but MS Word will not underline it in red – why? Because it is in capitals. So many CVs have spelling mistakes within the words which have been written in capitals because MS Word usually has a default setting not to underline them in red.
Curriculum vitae is usually in capitals and is often spelt incorrectly.


Use Calibri or Cambria – size 11, or something similar. ONLY use the space bar between words. Don’t use it to space out your CV by pressing it many times. You need to use the TAB key or the ruler at the top of the page. The reason for this is that whilst it may look great on your computer, when your CV is transferred into different formats and printed out, it can come out extremely messy with the spacing suddenly all over the place.


Format the dates so they are the same. There’s no point saying you have an eye for detail, then changing the way you have the dates on the second page. This is the most common mistake I see – and looks sloppy.
December 2008 – 2011
Sept ’05 – Jan ‘08


Most people only update their CV when they change jobs, without re-reading it, they just add the next job on to it. So for a job they used to work at it still says “I cover reception on a daily basis” Instead of ‘I covered reception on a daily basis’. This may seem like a minor detail, but if you can’t be bothered to read your CV why should an interviewer?


So many people find the original job spec for their current role copy and paste chunks and dump it into the middle of their CV. The problem with this is, it reads badly. See the highlighted chunk below:


  • Clearing meeting rooms, organising couriers, stamping post
  • Ensuring clients are treated to a 1st class service at all times
  • Make sure you complete all tasks before leaving for the day
  • Fill and restock the fridge making sure you have ordered milk/coffee for the next day


Travel and tourism, hospitality, and customer service courses are fine, because they have a relevance to being a receptionist. However be careful about proudly exclaiming to an interviewer that you are halfway through a course in Human Resources or Accounts or even a PA course. This will give the impression you are not looking at reception as a long term proposition.

Similarly with hobbies, don’t go into too much depth, i.e. putting half a page on jewellery-making on your CV, then letting the interviewer get that enthusiasm out of you. If your eyes light up more when you’re talking about your hobby than when you were talking about reception… if they feel you’re not passionate about customer service but you are about DJing (Never say you’re a DJ) then they’ll worry.


Be careful about what the public can see on your social networking sites. These days Outlook links to Facebook automatically so there’s a good chance your picture will appear on their screens too, so one of you holding up a friend in the street wearing a T-Shirt saying “Where’s THE PARTY!!” is probably a bad idea.


If you are changing your career, check your CV or get someone else to check if for you as it’s often difficult to tell when you’ve been staring at the same piece of writing for so long. Make sure that your CV is relevant to your new career.


Ex-cabin crew will have experienced a great many things that are directly related to reception duties.
Both on your CV and during the interview you should consider what skills you have picked up which could directly relate to your new career as a receptionist.

Don’t write too much about how wonderful flying is. This is fine if you are applying for another Cabin Crew position but if you’ve decided to change your career make sure you’ve remembered to change your CV and so it doesn’t say in big bold letters on the top you want to have a cabin crew job.

Don’t put under your hobbies that you love travel, visiting other cultures, and socialising. Do not put on the profile summary at the top of the page (in probably the most important part of your CV) that you work just as well on your own or in a team. Everyone says this, so I wouldn’t do it. Your CV must stand out from the crowd.

Be concise with your words and get to the point quickly. HR managers are very busy people.

CHAPTER TWO – THE INTERVIEW – do you keep getting turned down for the corporate reception roles and don’t know why? Here are tips on making that interview a success!

It is more than likely that you will be coming up against a number of other candidates, equally as suitable and polished – so you need to make yourself stand out.

How you do this?
It’s really very simple. Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes. If you were faced with two or three candidates equally as suitable for the role, what would swing it for you?

If one of them wanted it more

So just make sure you’ve done your homework, thought of some good answers to the questions, and have a really good reason why this particular job, why these particular hours and why this particular company would be perfect for you. So the job fits like a handmade glove.



Once you’ve submitted your CV to an online job-board, company or agency you should be prepared for that all important call from a HR Assistant.

Think of specific examples of where you’ve gone the ‘Extra Mile’ during your previous roles. Where you’ve faced a difficult situation, and by using your initiative you’ve taken quick and simple decisions which have affected the outcome in a positive light. Here you will find a lot more example receptionist interview questions

Be prepared to give examples of where you’ve shown team spirit.

DON’T say ‘I do it all the time, it’s so hard to think of anything in particular’ OR give the usual example of something you would do in the normal course of duties.


Avoid music, jokes or tricks however funny you think it is, an HR Assistant can be put off before they even get through to you. It is essential that your voicemail sounds professional so record this in a quiet place.

For example: “Hello, you have reached the voicemail of Jane Sampson. Unfortunately I’m not here at present, but please leave your name, telephone number and a short message and I will return your call as soon as possible.”


Only take the call if you are in a quiet place and are ready to be interviewed by the company. If you are returning their call – make sure you have a pen and paper ready beforehand.



When someone calls you because you’ve sent them your CV. Don’t say “well I’ve sent out so many can you remind me who you are, I’ve literally been sending out a hundred each week.” This will not make the recruiter feel special.


It is important you remember to sound happy, professional and enthusiastic. If you’re not in a quiet place ask them if you can call them back when you are.


Life in the City is fast and unfortunately interviewers don’t have much time. So speak quickly and concisely. Time is very precious in HR and unfortunately they have so little time on their hands. Don’t ask them how they are, whether they’re well today or how their day is going; you don’t really know them, so it’s best to just be friendly but to the point.


WATCH OUT – Clients these days ALWAYS check Facebook and LinkedIn. 90% of people don’t realise their picture settings are open for anyone to look at. CHECK NOW – make sure non-friends can’t read your whole life, because things are often misconstrued. We have lost many placements when clients have changed their minds on seeing a LinkedIn account which doesn’t match their CV or a Facebook account with every picture of the candidate holding a pint, falling over.


Presentation; so make sure everything is immaculate from very neat hair (if long – preferably tied back) to polished shoes is immaculate – this is simple to get right but can make all the difference.

So women: nicely fitting skirt suit, pressed shirt, polished shoes, plain or french nails, stud earrings, a little warm foundation etc

Men: Good suit that fits properly in the arms, good shirt/tie combination, very neat hair, polished shoes



Make sure you are listening to them carefully when they’re talking about the company or the role. It’s fine to make an occasional quiet noise signalling you’re understanding what they’re saying, but make sure you don’t do the same grunting affirmative noises 15 times in a row! Try and alternate it with some quiet nods and other noises.


Communication. Why are some receptionists paid a great deal more than others? See our FOH Magazine section with our receptionist salary survey
The reason is often communication. DO NOT miss the ends off the words you are saying. 

Example 1:  “I don’ understan why I don’ get…”
Example 2:  “I don’t understand why I don’t get”
(Pronounce the ‘T’ of don’t and the ‘D’ of understand.)

Everyone speaks differently with their friends. I do. I actually pick up my friends’ regional accents all the time as I love them so much – without realising it. HOWEVER when in a business meeting, I pronounce words clearly. THIS MATTERS – A LOT. I can’t tell you how much this will change the success rate you have with your interviews. Try it. Please.


Prepare questions to ask the interviewers, as they will want you to show initiative.

Examples of suitable questions are:

  • Who else will I be directly working alongside?
  • Who was working in the position before me – or how did this vacancy arise?
  • How soon would you like someone to begin?


  • How many days holiday would I get?
  • How many days paid sickness would I get?
  • What is the salary?
  • How flexible are the team with swapping shifts?

Interview Hiccups: 10 Interview mistakes you probably don’t know you’re doing wrong

Here is a list of the 10 biggest interview mistakes people don’t realise they’re making, but are probably costing them their dream job:

1: Limp Handshake

First impressions count more than many professionals think. A weak handshake is one of the most common interview issues, with many candidates giving off the impression that they’re fragile and unconfident based on their handshake.

2: Fresh Breath & Garlic

Very important to smell as well as look clean. DO NOT eat garlic even the day or two before your interview. I love garlic, however it does come out in your pores even the next day or so. You wont smell it yourself, but other people will. The same goes with raw onions. Finally keep one of those fresh-breath sprays in your pocket and spray just before you go in. Do not chew chewing gum, chances are you’ll forget to take it out in time. See below

3: Chewing Gum

A surprising number of job applicants chew gum during their interviews including many experienced professionals, lowering their chances of being accepted for their dream job.

4: Obviously

Obviously, Basically, Essentially… there are many more. These are words that are over-used when a candidate becomes nervous; “So obviously I thought I’d leave that job and obviously get a job closer to home, because obviously it’s cheaper on travel…” Lots of people do this, so the trick is just knowing you’re doing it, and then stopping. Also – when you answer a question with ‘Obviously’ you can actually sound rude…

5: Other Bad Habits

Good poker players are experts at hiding their emotions. You have to be just as cunning. When people are hit with a curve ball question in an interview, they will often try and cover-up the nerves by casually stretching, or flicking their hair, or scratching an arm/ankle/leg etc. These habits don’t work and you’re probably repeating them more than you realise. Practice scrunching up your toes instead, they are usually hidden – so you don’t give the game away!

6: CV Spelling Mistakes

Nothing ruins a professional CV like a spelling error. Spelling and grammar mistakes are often all it takes to get your CV tossed to the bottom of the pile, even if the rest of its content shows that you’re well suited to the job.

7: Answering the Phone

It might seem like obvious smartphone etiquette to switch your phone off before an interview, but many people still forget to. Letting your phone ring in an interview – particularly if you stop to answer it – is one of the most serious interview mistakes.

8: Poor Body Language

Posture and body language have a huge impact on the way interviewers view your skills, confidence and competence. Slumped shoulders, too laid back or keeping your handbag on your lap during the interview.

9: Unusual Comments

Unusual, unnecessary comments – such as comments about a reception area being very busy or quiet – can change an interviewer’s perception of you. A surprisingly large number of jobseekers fail the interview this way before it even begins.

10: Be nice to everyone

Including the receptionist – remember it’s likely they’ll be asked for their opinion.


Be calm, they’re not trying to trip you up with any questions. You may not be able to answer perfectly, don’t worry – no one does; but get in some good replies, show you have done your research on the company, show your enthusiasm for the job and keep in mind if you’re unsuccessful, then there will be another opportunity somewhere else.

Main Menu: Receptionist Recruitment Agency

CHAPTER THREE – How to keep a job on reception

Never on a reception desk:

  • Chew gum
  • Have a drink (receptions should let you have a glass of water only)
  • Take out your mobile phone and call or text
  • Use the Internet. The internet should only be used for personal use if you have been given permission
  • Leave the reception area unattended unless given permission
  • Use the phone for personal calls unless given permission
  • Get a tattoo at the weekend that says ‘I love Ken’ on your knuckles or get your eyebrow pierced (unless you work for an ultra-trendy advertising agency)

We have put together some real (and sometimes fun) examples of The WORST THINGS TO DO ON RECEPTION

Logistics – Are you going to be able to get there on time?

Most receptions in large companies will require you to work a shift rota. The average shift rota in the City runs from 7am to 7pm and it will be likely you are working between 35 and 40 hours a week.

Usually you will know in advance what your shifts will be, and you would normally do a week of each although most companies will be looking for a candidate who can sometimes be flexible – be a ‘team player’ and be able to swap the occasional shift.

Examples of a shift rota pattern for a 35 hour week:

  • Week One: 7am – 3pm
  • Week Two: 8am – 4pm
  • Week Three: 9am – 5pm
  • Week Four: 10am – 6pm
  • Week Five: 11am – 7pm

Will you honestly be able to make the early shift when it comes around? If it is summer time when the job is offered – have you considered what it will be like in the winter? Some areas of London, for instance, give you the wonderful opportunity to meet an array of interesting and colourful characters at 6am – when you’re on your way to the tube – when it’s still dark.

If you are on an ‘Elite team’ working for a facilities management company you may only know which shift you’re about to do the day before. In fact you are likely to get a few calls on the actual day telling you which site and hours you are doing.


THE BASICS for promotion. Follow these guidelines for at least the first six months:

  1. Turn up 10 minutes early for work EVERY DAY
  2. Look absolutely immaculate EVERY DAY
  3. Volunteer to help out team members where possible.
  4. Have the confidence to be the one to deal with a difficult Client, Customer or Director that others hide from
  5. When a management job comes up – APPLY FOR IT! You can’t win the prize if you don’t buy a ticket.
  6. Get inside information from FOH Managers in banks & law firms – who started as receptionists –  there are a few in the magazine part of our site – Reception Managers’ own stories
  7. Come up with innovative ideas to change or improve systems on reception great receptionist secrets and ideas

Winning promotion within a large team – Can you keep a secret? The secret selection process they use which will help you become an FOH Manager – The Golden Rule….

You’ve done everything right. You’ve stayed calm in difficult situations, you’ve overcome a rude client, you’ve impressed your manager, then the supervisor leaves and you get ready for that call up to their role. But it never happens. Your colleague – the quiet one in the corner who DEFINITELY was not as capable as you, gets promoted. WHY? I’ll explain…

Reception is such an easy place for gossip to spread. You are the hub of the company, seeing everyone come in and go out. Spreading gossip has never been so much fun! It’s very likely one or two team members will be unable to help themselves when they hear a juicy story, they will have to pass it on – but don’t be one of them. You only have to pass on one story and it can be traced back to you. So imagine they realised you were the one who helpfully passed on a secret about a member of staff. They went back to their office, disappointed and crossed your name off the promotion list. Management want to promote someone they can trust. Someone they can tell secrets and have open discussions with about their team. If they feel their comments could be passed on, then there’s no way they’ll bring you into the management fold. SO REMEMBER THE NUMBER ONE GOLDEN RULE – If you hear something juicy – bite your tongue – however hard it is!!!


Being a bad receptionist is easy. Anyone on the planet can be a bad receptionist.

Being an excellent receptionist takes talent.

You may be one of the fortunate people who has a natural gift for being charming and staying calm in difficult stressful situations. Being able to read people. Immediately being able to tell what kind of mood they’re in, without them saying a word. Continually juggling calls and meeting clients in a steady stream, and still looking warm and welcoming even when a secretary has double booked your room or the Hotel has been over booked.

Knowing the best and sometimes the most discrete way to handle awkward or embarrassing situations.

Adding little touches of kindness here and there – so that the clients or customers remember their stay with fondness or are just simply impressed.


FOH 5* Hotel Manager

“I would say to be the best you are at your job. Always go above and beyond the call of duty. Ask for plaudits/feedback from clients (internal & external)!! Make reference to these at appraisal time. Show willingness to learn – i.e. other areas that are not under your remit. Ask for additional work – is there anything else you can help your supervisor/manager with? Again, at appraisal, suggest courses that will increase your knowledge in your chosen field. Don’t be afraid to sell yourself!”

FOH Manager at a Law Firm

“Yes, definitely it’s the same with meeting rooms, bankers/lawyers have their own preferences, some like smaller/bigger rooms etc, also here some partners would ask reception to bring the guest to the room while most would pick them up from the waiting area so I guess it takes more time to learn those little things.

In terms of tricks, let me think … based on my experience at the bank (as this was a large team) I would say that if you want to get noticed you must be very proactive, coming up with some good ideas on how to make the work easier. The ideal time is the team meetings when the manager asks for any ideas/opinions around the table, some people are always quiet. I think you should always come prepared with some ‘observations’ or good points or ideas. It’s also good to get involved in social things i.e. helping to organise staff party/Christmas party etc.”

Why not check out more real advice from FOH managers who are running large corporate reception desks in London to understand how to be a good front desk receptionist – and get promoted

Reception Manager at a Bank

“The thing I would definitely appreciate if I was thinking of promoting one of the team members is their ability to think for themselves, that is to say if you have a problem, don’t come to me with the question, think of possible solutions (if you can) and then come and say: this is what happened …maybe next time we could do XYZ? Being proactive is always noticed

Things like not being off sick on Fridays/Mondays and not being late go without saying!”

Reception Manager at a Management Consultancy

My advice would be:

  • Offer your assistance to your supervisors, managers.
  • Try to be involved in events or large functions where you know senior management is involved in.
  • Make sure your appraisal is very positive and work on areas that might not be, include a lot of training to upskill yourself.
  • Be seen, be proactive, be positive, be on time


How much more could you want from a receptionist guidebook? I hope we’ve answered all your queries, however if not you may find the answer in our magazine section.