39 payroll interview questions (plus example answers)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 9 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Many companies across a range of industries rely on payroll professionals to ensure that their payroll processing is accurate and in line with compliance regulations. When applying for payroll administration roles, it's crucial that you can demonstrate to prospective employers that you can ensure accuracy and compliance, in addition to demonstrating a familiarity with the payroll process. Researching common interview questions for a payroll position and practising responses can significantly improve your interview performance. In this article, we look at 39 payroll interview questions, alongside some sample answers.

General payroll interview questions

Here are some examples of general payroll interview questions:

  1. Tell me about yourself.

  2. What are your strengths?

  3. What would you say are your main weaknesses?

  4. Tell me about your greatest professional achievement.

  5. What motivates you?

  6. Can you describe your ideal work environment?

  7. What made you choose payroll as a career path?

  8. What's the most enjoyable aspect of working in a payroll position?

  9. Are there any aspects of payroll work that you don't enjoy?

  10. What is it about this particular position that interests you?

  11. Why do you want to work for this organisation?

  12. What makes you an ideal candidate for this position?

  13. How would your former colleagues and supervisors from your previous role describe you?

Related: What does a payroll administrator do? (Duties and skills)

Questions about experience and background for payroll positions

Here are some payroll-related interview questions about your professional experience and background:

  1. What would you say are essential skills for a payroll administrator to have?

  2. Do you have extensive experience in using payroll systems and what are these systems?

  3. What payroll forms are familiar to you?

  4. In terms of payroll, what are the key differences between employees and contractors?

  5. What reports are you responsible for preparing when working as a payroll administrator?

  6. Can you provide examples of voluntary deductions and involuntary deductions?

  7. Do you have experience in processing special pay items? If so, how does the processing differ from regular payroll processing?

  8. Which spreadsheet software features do you know about?

  9. Tell me which benefits are tax deductible.

  10. Explain to me how employees pay tax on SSP?

Related: How to become a payroll specialist (with duties and skills)

In-depth questions for payroll positions

Here are some in-depth questions that interviewers may ask during an interview for a payroll position:

  1. When you're entering data, how do you ensure accuracy?

  2. Throughout your professional career, have you ever found yourself in a situation where you felt as though someone was challenging your personal ethics? If so, how did you handle this experience?

  3. Describe a time when you noticed a payroll mistake or when you made a payroll mistake. How did you fix this issue and what do you do to prevent these issues from happening?

  4. Have you ever had the responsibility of delivering bad news to a colleague? When you experienced this responsibility, how did you handle this situation?

  5. If an unhappy employee received an inaccurate payment, how would you resolve this issue and handle communications with the employee?

  6. Describe an experience when you felt stressed at work. How did you manage this stress?

  7. How would you handle an instance where an employee asked you about another employee's salary?

  8. Describe your experience in collaborating with a difficult colleague.

  9. Throughout your professional career and in your previous roles, did you ever make any changes or improvements to the payroll process? If so, describe these changes, how you made them and their impact.

  10. How do you approach and handle employees that have failed to file their timesheets before the deadline?

  11. Imagine that an employee comes directly to you about reimbursement for a business expense. What steps do you take to verify that the expense is appropriate for reimbursement and what would you do if the request is questionable or suspicious?

  12. If you're offered this role, what would your initial priorities be during your first week?

Related: What does a payroll clerk do? (With salary information)

Interview questions for payroll positions with sample answers

Below are some common interview questions for payroll positions, alongside their respective sample answers that you can use to help you prepare your own responses:

1. What experience do you have in using computerised payroll systems?

Prospective employers typically expect candidates for payroll positions to be familiar with payroll systems. Due to this, interviewers ask this question to determine whether the candidate has the correct experience to work in this role. Effective answers demonstrate to prospective employers that the candidate is confident and proficient in using this form of technology. In particular, a good answer would reference any specific software mentioned in the job description. If you lack experience in using payroll systems, you can still provide a good response by explaining how you quickly learned how to use new software applications in previous roles.

Example: 'I have over 10 years of experience in working in payroll administration roles and using a wide variety of computerised payroll systems. For example, I'm familiar with Xero and QuickBooks, which I believe is the payroll software that this company currently utilises. I also have manual experience in conducting payroll services, which can be valuable in the event of unreliable technology.'

Related: What is payroll processing? (Types, how-to guide and tips)

2. How do you make sure that you're up-to-date with payroll-related compliance and regulatory developments?

Working in a payroll position requires employees to regularly follow financial regulations. Interviewers ask this question to determine whether you understand the importance of this and have a strong awareness of the current legislation that can impact your role. When answering this question, it's crucial that your answer demonstrates that you're aware of the relevant legislation and that you prove to the employer that you intend to keep following industry developments to maintain this knowledge.

Example: 'For the last two years, I've worked as a payroll clerk, which required me to become familiar with the current financial regulations. To help maintain my knowledge, I subscribe to newsletters aimed at payroll professionals, meaning I get notified whenever any relevant changes occur. In the past, I've also attended a range of webinars and seminars on payroll topics, which allowed me to remain informed on the latest industry developments.'

Related: How to get a job in compliance (with roles and skills)

3. How do you handle a situation where an upset employee comes to you to discuss a withholding error made by payroll?

Interviewers ask this question so that they can assess your ability to solve problems. In addition, they're looking to see how you can diffuse stressful situations and handle conflicts with colleagues. It's vital that your answer to this question demonstrates your problem-solving skills, your commitment to maintaining accuracy and that you can remain calm during conflicts.

Example: 'If I noticed that an employee was angry, my first decision would be to try and calm the employee down while allowing them to explain their concerns. Following this, I'd review the payroll documents to confirm the mistake and remedy it if I can. If there's a mistake, I'd submit back payment for the additional withholding amount so that the employee receives the extra money with their next paycheck. Additionally, I'd check with the employee that they were happy with this result.'

Related: Smart answers to interview questions (with examples)

4. How do you manage your time to ensure that you complete your payroll duties within the deadline requirements?

Interviewers ask this question to determine the candidate's organisational skills, which are essential for payroll positions. Effective answers to this question outline the candidate's organisation skills, including their methods of organising work. A good answer may also mention any tools or applications that the candidate uses to increase their organisational skills. When answering this question, it's valuable to mention that you ensure that you complete all tasks and meet any deadlines.

Example: 'To ensure I meet deadlines, I use an online tool that organises my tasks daily, weekly and monthly. This tool enables me to keep track of all my responsibilities and complete all tasks on time. I also use reminders to ensure that I don't forget to complete certain tasks.'

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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