Meet the Queen of the Receptionists

Meet the Queen of the Receptionists

by Kerry Scott on 15 May 2009

169103340_851db8e17aPhoto by Jon

When I was doing a lot of recruiting, people used to ask me which job was the hardest to fill.

Receptionist.  No question.

Without a doubt, there are some great receptionists out there.  If you have one, you should pay that person a boatload of money and send flowers every day, because he/she is a rare jewel.  In my experience, there is something about that job that either makes people a little nuts or just attracts the nuts.

One of my favorites was a candidate who referred to herself in the third person throughout the interview.  I’d say, “What sort of phone system did you use at XYZ company?” and she’d answer, “Jane used a Siemens 123 switchboard.”  It was weird.

After a few rounds of this, I said, “Why do you refer to yourself in the third person?”

She said, “What do you mean, third person?”

I said, “You know, saying “Jane” instead of “I.”

She said, “Because Jane is a queen.  You need to know if you hire me that Jane is a queen, and Jane deserves to be treated like a queen.  Jane will not tolerate people telling me what to do or being rude to me or bossing me around.  A queen deserves better.  My therapist told me that.  He said to remind everyone that Jane is a queen who deserves better.”

So yeah.  No hire.  Although in fairness, receptionists DO get treated like crap sometimes, so I can see where she was coming from.

Incidentally, the person we hired instead turned out to be a queen too—specifically, a drama queen.  She did all kinds of attention-seeking things.  My favorites was the week she ate baby food out of a jar every two hours at the reception desk (in front of customers).  We should have stuck with Queen Jane.

Tales of the Cluefree appear pretty much every Friday.  Past stories are here.

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class factotum May 15, 2009 at 8:51 am

I have wondered why some companies don’t understand the importance of the first person customers, vendors, and recruits see when they walk into the building and who answers the phone.

In the late 80s, we had a receptionist whose command of standard English was tenuous at best. For a couple thousand dollars a year more, we could have gotten someone who actually sounded polished and professional. And, incidentally, might have gotten our phone messages right and when she typed letters, might have matched the name on the address to the salutation.

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Charles May 15, 2009 at 10:10 am

Actually my “favorite” receptionist was one who the “HR” guy (who wasn’t really HR, he was just the company owner’s gardner who was hired to interview after the company laid off all of HR; because, well, he needed a full time job with benefits as his wife threw him out) hired because he had a one night stand with either her or her sister (I forget which because quite frankly I didn’t care to know) and felt bad about it.

This lady (Can I call her that? without be sarcastic?) used to go out into the parking lot in full view of everyone, especially clients coming to our location, then proceed to hike her skirt WAY UP because she wanted to get as much of tan as possible. I heard that one could see more than “London or France.”

She also used to send via email her “poetry” to everyone in the company. She was asked on several occasions to stop with all this nonsense. Her refusal to stop with the poetry was the reason the company finally let her go after several weeks.

But, otherwise her receptionist skills were good.

Charles May 15, 2009 at 10:13 am

oops, that reads worse than I meant. It should read that she would lay on the hood of her car spread-eagled with her skirt hiked up.

Clued In May 15, 2009 at 2:07 pm

My vote for most clueless receptionist was the one at the group psychiatric practice located next door to my old offices. Her entire attitude toward patients was nasty, arrogant, demanding and bitter. That would not be the kind of attitudes I would put out there to the kinds of patients that kind of practice draws!

I told both her and several of the doctors more than once that if she kept it up, one of those patients was going to eventually snap and go for her, right through that little opaque glass window she constantly slammed shut on them.

Eventually, that’s exactly what happened. And when she sued the practice for negligence as a result, I was one of about dozen people who testified against her. But frankly, I’m not sure why the practice was stupid enough to have kept her around in the first place. (They ultimately settled out of court.)

class factotum May 15, 2009 at 6:47 pm

OK! We’re telling that kind of story! I worked for a Fortune 100 company at the operational HQ. We had two receptionists: one a middle-aged lady, very southern, proper, well mannered and modest, the other a gorgeous young thang with a stunning figure who wore tight, short and I do mean tight and short dresses. She was a knockout.

I liked her, but I warned her that she needed to tone it down because every time an executive’s wife walked in, the wife saw competition. Young Thang told me I didn’t know what I was talking about, but when it came time to lay off one of the receptionists, she was the one who was let go. I don’t know what went into the decision, but you don’t want to be on the SVP’s wife’s bad list.

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Melanie May 19, 2009 at 9:01 am

My two favourite Receptionists would have to have been either the one who came in coked up to his eyeballs on Day 2 of the job, or the one who had to be counselled for continually leaving personal reading material on the reception desk in full view of clients (gay mens’ magazines, incidentally, but that was not the actual issue; the “not on the desk” rule applied to any non-job related materials).

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