Payroll interview questions: 30 things employers always ask

By Robert Half 19th August 2019

It’s never been more important to hone your payroll interview technique.  Research for the Robert Half Salary Guide 2019 showed that employers find payroll positions some of the hardest to hire for, due to the lack of qualified talent. Professionals who can show that they have the skills, experience and ambition to succeed are more likely to get their pick of the best roles.

To get the inside edge from the very start of the application process, you will need a top notch CV and cover letter to help you secure a job interview invitation, so make sure you take the time to get the basics right before honing your interview technique with these payroll interview tips. 

Research the company

It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many job applicants attend interviews without first researching the company. Ensure you make time to visit the company website before your payroll interview so you can familiarise yourself with the company mission, ethos, offering and market positioning. You can give yourself the competitive edge by remembering to check team biographies and recent news, too.

Read between the lines

Job descriptions are more than a simple summary of the job on offer—they’re also a shopping list of skills and qualifications that the employer is looking for. By reading it thoroughly, you’ll be able to identify key competencies for the role, which you can tie your own skills, temperament and achievements to. This positions you as a perfect fit for the role, rather than a generic candidate. 

Rehearse

You’re more likely to feel confident if you take some time to practice answering common payroll interview questions and answers. Use recruitment industry resources, like this list of popular payroll job interview questions, to rehearse articulate answers to anything you might be asked.

Payroll interview questions

Information gathering

The hiring manager may want to get the ball rolling by asking you informational interview questions so they can get to know you better and probe the reasons you might have applied for the job.

Examples of these questions might be:

•    Can you start by telling me about yourself?
•    What do you find most interesting about this role?
•    What made you want to work for us?
•    Why did you choose a career in payroll?

Tests of knowledge

Potential employers may also use some of the following payroll job interview questions to test your technical knowledge:

•    Can you tell me which software you’re most familiar with?
•    Which benefits are classed as ‘tax deductible’?
•    Which Excel features do you use most on a daily basis?
•    Explain how a DEA is deducted from an employee’s pay. 
•    How is SSP taxed?
•    Give examples of late FPS report exceptions
•    What are some of the charges to income tax?

Tests of behaviour

Your past behaviour in certain work situations can help a potential employer figure out how you may react in the future. For this reason, interview questions for payroll positions will often include questions like this…

•    Have you ever failed to hit a target which was set for you? What was your solution? 
•    How do you keep up-to-date with regulatory/compliance news?
•    Have you ever been in a situation where you felt your ethics were tested? What did you do?
•    Tell me about your time management strategy at work.
•    Have you ever experienced a difficult interaction with a colleague? What was your approach to the situation?

Hypothetical scenarios

Much like behavioural interview questions, situational questions are asked to test how you’ll react in certain professional situations. The only difference is that situational questions are focussed on hypothetical scenarios rather than historical ones. 

•    Someone on your team has made an error on a crucial finance report. What’s your reaction?
•    How would you react if a colleague tried to file a business expense which you considered dubious?
•    Imagine a scenario in which you had to tell the company that monthly payroll has been delayed. How would you do it?
•    A colleague is angry due to incorrect holiday pay. How do you approach the situation?

Exploring cultural fit

Companies will always look to protect their corporate culture by hiring new employees who have the same interests and ethics as their teams. They may ask some of the following questions to help determine if you’re a match…

•    How do you feel about working alone versus working in a group?
•    What’s your favourite way to de-stress at work?
•    What do you think the key ingredient to good collaboration is?
•    If your teammates were to describe you, what do you think they’d say?
•    Which aspect of office life annoys you most?

Speed and creativity

Your interviewer may choose to throw a random question into the mix to test your ingenuity at a moment’s notice. When answering these, it’s important not to take yourself too seriously or allow yourself to get anxious. Relax and have fun with your answer.

•    If you could have any super power, what would you choose and why?
•    Name your 5 fantasy dinner guests.
•    How much does an elephant weigh?

Exploring income expectations

Your salary expectations may come up during the interview…

•    What are your salary expectations?

If you’re asked a frank question like this, it helps to have some knowledge regarding industry benchmarks for a payroll salary and what other professionals in the area are earning. You can find information like this in a recognised report like the Robert Half Salary Guide.

Download your free guide now

For more payroll specialist interview questions and answers, contact the team at Robert Half now. Alternatively, search payroll jobs on the Robert Half site now or upload your CV and let our experts help you find your next payroll opportunity.

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