Use Your Front Line Wisely

Professional conferences offer plenty of opportunities for both networking and information gathering. They’re great places to learn about current trends—and new directions—in a particular industry. I always come home from a conference with tons of new ideas kicking around in my head!

One idea in particular has stuck with me since I first heard it expressed in a presentation at a staffing conference last September. Allyson Young, HR and brand director of K&N Management, a Texas-based restaurant-management company, declared that receptionists can play an important role in HR decisions at any organization. That statement caused people to look up and pay attention.

It’s common knowledge that even though CEOs are the ones officially in charge of their companies, the day-to-day running of an organization is generally handled by scores of other people. These include junior executives, managers, department heads, and rank-and-file workers. Receptionists aren’t usually included in this category, though, because they aren’t typically regarded as filling a role that is specific to an organization. They answer phones, greet visitors, and do some light clerical work, but they don’t really have any input on the HR-related happenings in a company. Or do they?

Think about it: the receptionist is often the first point of contact for your organization. You’re probably already fully aware that when clients or prospective clients call your company, the first person they interact with is the receptionist. So you know how critical it is to staff that position with someone who communicates well and makes a good first impression.

But have you considered that when job candidates arrive for an interview at your company, their first contact, too, is with your receptionist? Obviously, you still want someone in that role who does a good job of representing your organization. But he or she is also well positioned to make an initial assessment of a candidate.

Does the candidate smile and make eye contact when speaking with someone? Does he or she seem authentic and approachable? Does the candidate exude confidence—or anxiety? An observant receptionist will be able to answer all of these questions.

Of course, candidates will be on their “best behavior” when they’re sitting across the table from hiring managers and recruiters. They want to impress the people who will make the “yea” or “nay” decision about hiring them. But what about when candidates are talking to someone who they likely assume has no say in the hiring process? How a candidate interacts with people they think are “unimportant” says a lot about his or her character and compatibility with the company culture. A candidate who treats a receptionist with as much courtesy and respect that’s given to an executive definitely earns some points on his or her application tally sheet.

Organizations should constantly be evaluating their hiring processes. There’s always something to improve—whether by a huge change or a small tweak. But as you think about the different roles in this process, don’t underestimate the contribution that receptionists, too, can make. They may not be executives, but they are uniquely situated to provide valuable information that HR managers and recruiters might miss. So be sure to ask for their input on hiring decisions!

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