The Talent Search: How to Find a Great Receptionist

Lisa Starr
How to find a great spa or salon receptionist front desk staff

One saying that holds true for any salon owner is that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. 

With your receptionist being the first and last face of your client experience, you have to consider if they are creating the first impressions that will impress and retain your clients?  

So much energy and thought has been put into preparing the success of your salon, but that could all be put into jeopardy with just one poorly answered phone call or inattentive check-out experience.

Salons all over the country bemoan the difficulties of finding qualified front desk staff.  When you think about it, it’s a challenging position to fill.  The ideal receptionist has a friendly, welcoming personality and a natural inclination to be helpful.  They need to be computer savvy, able to multi-task, and remain calm under pressure.  Since you’re in the business of beauty, they also need to representation of the current fashion and trends to the best of their ability.  To top it all off, you’re hoping to get all of this for anywhere from $8-$12 per hour in most parts of the country!

For many, the position of a salon receptionist is not typically a career aspiration, rather a stepping stone along their career path. This doesn’t mean you can’t staff your front desk with quality people, but only makes it that much more challenging to recruit and retain the ideal candidate. Having a complete, written position description is the first step in your search. You will be aided in your success by having a process and knowing exactly what you are looking for and what to expect. Make a list all of the responsibilities of the position, and be realistic.  Beyond answering the phones, and checking clients in and out, what else is expected?  Do they make coffee, help with laundry and inventory management, or have reporting duties?

So, how do you find good candidates?  If you are in a small community that has a weekly newspaper with a classified section, that can be an affordable resource, but otherwise job searches are predominately online, on sites such as Careerbuilder and Craigslist.  If you haven’t done it before, it is quite easy.  The important thing to note is your wording of the post.  You’ll get better candidates if you title the position “Customer Service” rather than using the term “receptionist”.  List the position as “Salon Customer Service” in the spa/salon/fitness category, and don’t post the entire position description, it will be too long.  Just include a couple of sentences that are realistic but positive, using words like “energetic,” “fun,” “professional,” and “team-oriented.”  The best candidates will have had experience in front of live customers in retail, restaurant or hospitality environments, so adding that to the job listing will help narrow your responses.  It is VERY important to mention that the position includes weekends and/or evening shifts. As you know salon work is not the typical Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 shifts, but that may not be obvious to applicants.

You’ll likely be able to eliminate about half of your applicants based on their resume, cover letter, and/or their availability. It’s best to schedule phone interviews with the remaining applicants to narrow down the screening process.  A short conversation is enough to determine if you’d like to meet the applicant in person, whether they are indeed available when you need them, and if they are in your price range. This saves valuable time for both of you.

When you’re finally ready to conduct interviews, make sure to use the position description as your guide.  If you’re not good at interviewing, or have not had much success in the past, spend a little time preparing.  There are numerous helpful short videos on You Tube such as this one to guide you.  Keep in mind that the purpose of the interview is for you to learn as much as possible about the applicant and their suitability for your position.  This means, you ask questions and then let them talk!  Take notes and ask follow-up questions.  Consider some of the personality traits that people in this position should possess, such as friendliness, self-motivation, and an orientation to teamwork. Be sure you ask questions that shed light on these capabilities.

Once you’ve winnowed it down to a few candidates, inviting them to “audition” is essential, especially if they have no salon experience. Have them come in on a busy day and spend 2-3 hours behind the desk, just observing the level and type of activity.  This can be a real eye-opener for the applicant, and lessens the chances you’ll hire someone who goes to lunch the first day and never returns!

Finally, you’re ready to extend an offer, which will hopefully be accepted.  The biggest predictor of success from this point will depend on your training and support protocols, especially during the first month, which we’ll cover in another blog.

About the Author

Lisa Starr

Lisa Starr brings over 30 years of industry-specific experience as a consultant, educator and writer to Booker through GOtalk. Lisa also works for Wynne Business, a leading spa consulting and education company. Among other things, Lisa’s expertise lies in business operations and finances, sales and marketing, inventory management, human resource development, and business process improvement. She is a well-known speaker within the trade show circuit and is a frequent contributor to industry

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