Who is a payroll clerk? This is an individual who collects, verifies, processes payroll information, and computes employee pay and benefit entitlements.
Below are the top 20 payroll interview questions and answers to guide you on your interview.
1. Why Are You Interested In This Role?
In most cases, the interviewer may prefer asking you this question as the first one for them to know why you are interested in working for them. It would be best to tell them that you want to use your skills and learn from them.
“Firstly, I must say that I applied for this job since I needed to use the skills and knowledge that I learned in the university and past experiences to earn an income. Again, since I am still young and energetic, I believe that I have a very long way to go as far as my career is concerned. I still have room to improve and continue sharpening my skills and knowledge in this sector. Having worked in other organizations and gained experience, I would be delighted to use the skills and knowledge I have gained to better the performance of your company as far as this sector is concerned.”
2. What Are The Roles Of A Payroll Clerk?
Here, the interviewer wants to learn whether you are aware of the duties and responsibilities that you are entitled to as a payroll clerk. Tell them the key duties and responsibilities that you are expected to perform.
“As a payroll clerk, there are several duties and responsibilities that I am responsible for. The main duties and responsibilities are;
i) Training, developing and supervising payroll staff
ii) Ensuring compliance with the current payroll government regulations
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iii) Preparing accruals and reconciling them to the general ledger
iv) Establishing and implementing policies on such matters as garnishments and payroll advancements to employees.
v) Preparing organization and government reporting.
These are the key duties and responsibilities that I would feel honored for if I get a chance to perform them in your company.”
3. What Are The Qualities That A Payroll Clerk Needs To Be Successful?
The interviewer wants to know what qualities you think can help you be successful in this role. Talk about the qualities that you have and think that they can help you do an excellent job in your career.
“To start with, being well organized is one of the key qualities that a payroll manager should have. There should be clear filing systems that can be accessed easily whenever reference is needed about payrolls. Again, a payroll clerk deals with numbers that involve employee payments. They need to be very accurate with zero errors. No employee should ever complain about underpayment or overpayment. Thirdly, a payroll clerk should have good communication skills since there are a lot of consultations that are made concerning documents. Lastly, a payroll clerk should always have clean records of important details concerning payments of employee’s salaries.”
4. What Major Challenges Did You Face During Your Last Role? How Did You Manage?
Your interviewer wants to know the significant difficulties that you came across in your previous role. Talk about the challenges that you faced and how you managed to solve them.
“In my previous role, manual payroll processing was one of the major challenges I encountered while working. As we all know, manual payment processing requires no upfront in investment of technology in terms of software and electronic systems. You are just allowed to use a calculator in this type of processing. In the process, it is with no doubt that you are exposed to a lot of errors while keying in data and information. To curb this, I had to be very careful and spend more time cross-checking if my work was okay.”
5. Describe Your Daily Routine As a Payroll Clerk?
Here, the interviewer expects you to give a daily schedule on how you will perform your duties. Start from the first activity until the last one of the day.
“The first activity that I perform after arriving at the office would be checking my emails to see if there is any matter that needs to be attended to urgently. After that, I start going through the payroll processing to see if there is any update that needs to be updated. After that, I start responding to any employee’s queries or inquiries pertaining to their payrolls. Maybe they want to change their payment accounts, and I will follow up with HR to update them. I then start making the timesheets and payroll trackers and forward them to the manager for processing and approval. That would be a busy day at work.”
6. Describe Briefly About Your Experience
The interviewer wants to know where you have worked, for how long, and the experience that you have gained from your previous roles. Give them the information as requested.
“As far as experience is concerned, I have worked as a payroll clerk for seven years in two different organizations. In my first organization, I was dealing with payrolls in a trucking logistic company. I gained a lot of experience here since there were many employees that I needed to work on their payrolls. I worked in this organization for three years before transferring to another organization where I worked for four years. Again I interacted with many colleagues, and I learned from them as well. I believe that this is enough experience that is needed in your company’s role as a payroll clerk.”
7. What Kind Of Strategies And Mindset Is Required For This Role?
The interviewer wants to know what attitude you have towards this role. Talk about your primary focus as a payroll clerk.
“As a payroll clerk, I should be focused on accuracy and timely delivery of my services to the organization. Of course, no one would be happy to receive late payment of salaries, benefits, or pensions. I need to ensure that the payrolls have to be in place before the required date. Also, focusing on accuracy is also important in this role. I have to be sure that all the recorded amounts to be paid are as they should be with zero errors. Having considered those, I will have a humble time working as a payroll clerk.”
8. What Is The Biggest Challenge That You Foresee In This Job?
In this question, the interviewer wants to know what is the biggest challenge that you think might affect this industry in the future. Also, you can suggest solutions to the challenge.
“In this industry, there is the regular update of taxes and legislations or the latest payroll rules. As a result, some of the information provided by the employees might be outdated and need to be updated. Some employers may just ignore or not get time to update them, and this can cause errors and delays in payment if not looked into. This department should invest in educating the employees to regularly update their information regarding payrolls to avoid errors and delays while paying.”
9. How Do You Stay Motivated In Your Work?
The interviewer wants to learn what gives you daily psych while you are working. Consider talking about your achievements in work as your daily motivators.
“As a payroll clerk, I must say that every bit of success is a motivation in my career. Whenever I meet the organization’s expectations in my department, I always feel motivated to love my job and continue doing it even better. Seeing few or no complaints about payrolls is the best thing that motivates me in this career. All my goals attained and achievements are always my motivators.”
10. Describe A Time When You Failed In This Role And The Lessons You Learned
You must have made a mistake in your career and didn’t end well. Your interviewer wants you to talk about an event when that happened to you and the lessons that you learned.
“Classification of employees and contractors can be challenging and can cause errors too. Contractors should not be paid for overtime wages, and their taxes from wages are not withheld. Vice versa is also true. One time I made a mistake and classified an employee as a contractor. They missed their overtime wages. This was an error that I made and caused a lot of inconveniences. I learned that seeking clarification from management about employees is very important.”
11. Why Do You Feel You Are Most Suited For This Role?
The interviewer wants to know why you think you are the candidate they are looking for and not another. Talk about your uniqueness in your career.
“This post is very crucial and needs a very experienced candidate for that matter. I have gained seven years of experience working as a payroll clerk. The knowledge and skills I have are just unique. I would be the right candidate if you considered my experience as an added advantage to me.”
12. Share With Us Your Greatest Achievement
Here, the interviewer wants to know what is the biggest goal that you have achieved. Talk about your most significant achievement, award of promotion relevant to your career.
“The greatest achievement that I have attained in my career was when I won the title of ‘The Staff Of The Year’ several times. This award was determined by the topmost management team in my previous company. I have no doubts that this was determined by my hard work and skills, and the knowledge that I was using to maximize my productivity in this role. It is my hope that I will achieve more working with you.”
13. Tell Us About The Six Payroll Analyses And Reports
The interviewer is testing your knowledge on the activities involved when preparing payroll analysis and reports. Mention and briefly explain them.
“The preparation of the payroll analyses and reports involve;
i) Deduction report- displays details of payroll deductions processed for a certain period.
ii) Element results report- displays a listing of elements and pay values processed for each payroll relationship action.
iii) Gross-to-net report – displays a listing of the total results calculated in the payroll run.
iv) Payment register – displays results used to verify and audit payment distributions.
v) Payroll activity report – lists details about payroll runs.
Those are the top five payroll analyses and reports.”
14. What Is Oracle Business Intelligence Publisher, And What Is It Used For?
The interviewer is testing your knowledge of the software you are supposed to use as a payroll clerk.
“This is a reporting solution to author, manage, and deliver all your reports and documents easier and faster than traditional reporting tools. In this industry, it is used to prepare results and reports concerning employee’s payrolls.”
15. Tell Us The Three Payroll Internal Controls
Your interviewer wants to know your experience in this field by asking about the internal controls. Mention them and briefly explain.
“There are three main payroll internal controls used in this field. The main three are;
i) General internal controls – these are used to audit, change authorization, change tracking logs, check errors in reports, issue payment results to supervisors, and restrict access to some records.
ii) Payroll calculation controls – these are used to verify hours worked, automate timekeeping, calculate verification, match time cards to employees, verify overtime worked hours, and approve payroll changes.”
iii) Check payment controls – these are used to update signature authorization, hand checks to employees, lock up undistributed paychecks, match addresses, and check payroll accounts.’’
16. Take Us Through The Manual Payroll Processing Procedure
The interviewer expects you to tell them the phases that are involved when processing payrolls manually. Mention and briefly explain what it entails.
“The following are the phases that are involved in payroll processing.
i) Establish your employee’s identification number
ii) Collect relevant employee tax information
iii) Choose a payroll schedule
iv) Review on employee hourly schedules
v) Determine overtime pay
vi) Calculate gross pay
vii) Determine deductions
viii) Calculate net pay
ix) Issue payment to employees using their preferred method of payment.”
17. What Factors Would You Consider When Choosing A Payroll Software?
The interviewer wants to know what are the considerations that you would make when selecting payrolls
“When selecting software to use in the payroll process, there are a number of considerations that I would consider to find one. These considerations would be;
i) The support and customer service that they offer. I would choose a real-time response.
ii) The integration
iii) The cost that I am going to incur if I chose a certain software
iv) The convenience and reliability
v) How user friendly it is. I wouldn’t consider a complicated one to use.
vi) Free of cost trial. There should be a trial time to determine whether it is the best for my organization.”
18. How Would You Cope Up With Pressure?
The interviewer is asking you how you would manage to work under pressure in your role. Talk about the strategies that you would put in place to ensure you work as expected, even if under pressure.
“In this industry, too much pressure is expected to be experienced, especially when the pay dates are approaching, and there are a lot of changes that have to be made. It has happened to me before. All I had to do was closely work with my team and schedule each member of the team activities that they should perform. In this situation, you have to work in teams to deliver in time.”
19. What Is Your Biggest Fear In Your Career?
Your interviewer wants to know what it is that you wouldn’t want to happen to you in your career.
My biggest fear in my career would be not meeting deadlines given to me by my boss. I understand that any delays to employee’s salaries, pensions, and benefits must have started from the payroll department. Obviously, delayed payments will anger the employees and as a result, it can lead to strikes, or employee’s losing psych and motivation. This would be my biggest fear in my career.
20. What Would Your Close Friends Describe You?
The interviewer wants to know how you can relate with other people who are closely working with you. Talk about the nice things your friends would say about you.
“Although I have a few friends, I believe that they would be able to describe me honestly according to my character and behaviors. I believe that 97% of them will describe me as a humble, hardworking, individual who likes having adventures, and loves martial arts.”
Securing a payroll clerk position might be as easy as you may think but without following the above guidelines might land you in unsafe results. Answer the questions with confidence and honesty and you will pass the interview. All the best!