Last updated on July 8th, 2020 at 07:53 am

Man applies for a position of a Payroll clerk. The HR generalist shakes his hand at the start of the interview.

Q. Why do you want to work as a payroll clerk?

You can hardly find something motivating about the job, except that it pays well, and that it is not a stressful job.

Most people who apply for this job try to get any accounting or administrative position, and Payroll Clerk is just one of their options.

In an interview, however, you should try to convince the hiring managers that you really want the job–and not only need one.

You can say that you like the working duties, or that you believe to have the skills and abilities to become a good clerk.

Alternatively you can point out something about the company–saying that you want to work for them, because of their great reputation, excellent working environment, stellar system of benefits, etc.

In this case you can add that the position does not matter that much for you–that you will do any administrative work for them.


Q, Why do you think you can do this job well?

Refer to your qualification, and the essential skills for a good clerk. To such skills belong: attention to detail, responsibility, excellent computing and math skills, loyalty, accounting skills, ability to work independently and without supervision, ability to handle a heavy workload, and so on.

What is more, you should point out to your previous clerical experience. If you had a similar job before, or even a different job that required the same skills, say them that you believe it had prepared you for the role of a payroll assistant.


Q. What do you consider the biggest mistake you have ever made in your job?

Everyone makes mistake–including the hiring managers. Tell them about a mistake you made, admit that it was your mistake (do not blame your colleagues for the mistake).

Then you should tell them how you eventually spotted the mistake, and took measures to correct it. At the end of your answer you can emphasize the lesson you learned, and tell them how it helped you to become a better clerk, to do your job more responsibly.

If you apply for your first job, you can mention a mistake you made in your accounting classes.

* Do not forget to check: Tell me about yourself – a question you can get in any interview. Learn what to focus on in your answer.


Man is trying to get an entry level job, interviewing in front of a panel. The interviewers are observing every gesture he makes, his every move.Q. How do you ensure your knowledge of payroll stays up to date?

You can say that you read journals, and check the latest changes to the laws and to the accounting standards. You can actually say this even if you check nothing–the chances that they will ask you about a particular change to a law are close to zero.

Nevertheless, if you recall any recent changes (if you really watch them), you can mention them in your answer. This will help you to build your credibility in the eyes of the interviewers.

Q. Someone from your colleagues wants to befriend you. What will you do?

Payroll clerks should be careful, and they should not let other people to tell them what to do.

Say that you want to make friends (since it is natural to befriend some of your colleagues, and also good for your employer), but will not talk with the colleagues about your job, or about their paycheck. You should not open any topic that can be considered sensitive.

At the end of your answer you can emphasize that you won’t let your emotions to interfere with your work, and that no colleague will benefit from your mutual friendship, at least not money-wise.


Q. Do you have you any experience with card payments? Describe your experience.

Card payments are a simple method of offering employees a debit card they can use to buy things, or cash it with ATM. It is like sending money to the bank account; just you send them a card with is loaded with money, with their monthly salary.

Card payments are becoming popular in many countries. Show the interviewers that you are aware of the latest trends, and that you are not afraid to learn how to issue such cards.

* May also interest you: How to overcome interview nerves – Feeling anxious? Learn how to get rid of your stress.


Q. Can you list down the tax rates and other deductions we make from a gross payment before sending the final sum of money to the employee?

This is a technical question and you should know the answer. Since it is a broad topic and the deductions differ from one country to another (they sometimes differ even from one city to another), I will not go into details with the answer to this question.

However, the key is to show them that you work systematically, and understand your job. You can even ask them for a piece of paper, and show all the deductions (in a correct order) on a practical example.

For example, you can start with a gross wage of $5,000, and show them exactly what will be deducted from the money, and how.


Female clerk faces a practical test in her interview. She seems to be struggling with the answer.Short test in an interview

Question: Here is a sample employee card. You can see the hours they spent in work last month, the number of hours they worked overtime, as well as the pay rate for both regular time and overtime. Calculate their gross payment and net payment for the given month.

HR managers that really know their job will always test your skills with a practical exam. It is the easiest and the most secure way to assess your readiness for the job, and your true knowledge of the field.


Other questions you may face in your interview for a payroll clerk job

  • Tell us about as time when you had to meet a tight deadline in work. Explain what did you do to meet the deadline.
  • Describe the last conflict you had with a colleague (or with a schoolmate, if this is your first job application). How did you reconcile the conflict?
  • Describe a situation when you struggled to communicate something to one of your colleagues. What did you do to eventually get your message over?
  • What does integrity mean to you?
  • Tell us about a time when you faced a conflict of personal and professional interests.
  • Describe the biggest mistake you’ve ever made in your work.
  • Tell us about a time when you struggled with motivation in the job. What did you do to regain your motivation?

Special Tip: If you are not sure how to answer these questions, have a look at our Interview Success Package. Multiple great answer to all tricky scenario based questions (describe a time when…) will help you a lot in your payroll clerk interview. Thank you for checking it out!


More than just your interview answers

Success in an interview does not depend only on your answers to their questions.

How you act, what your body says (the non-verbal communication), whether you manage to build good relationship with the interviewers, what you wear, whether you manage to sell your skills to them–all of this, and actually even more, plays a role on your success.

Continue your preparation with – Your best job interview coach since 2011, to ensure you won’t make any mistakes on a big day.

  • How to dress for an interview – Not sure what clothes you should wear for your payroll clerk job interview? Let us help you with your choice.
  • Body language in an interview – Our non-verbal communication stands for 85-90% of the message we send over. Learn how to send the right signals to your interviewers.
  • Salary negotiation tips – Basic rules you should remember when negotiating a salary in your job interview. Get what you deserve .

Matthew Chulaw
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