Payroll Manager Job Descriptions, Average Salary, Interview Questions

What Does a Payroll Manager Do?

A payroll manager oversees the payroll department and is responsible for preparing and distributing employee payments. They maintain payroll records, calculate taxes, and balance payroll accounts. They ensure payroll procedures are followed and must comply with all federal and state laws, regulations, and payroll tax obligations. They must be able to meet crucial deadlines and ensure payroll expenses and taxes are paid correctly and on time. They manage payroll systems and must be proficient with timekeeping and payroll software, such as SAP, ADP, Kronos, and MS Office. 

Payroll managers should have excellent analytical and organizational skills. Good leadership qualities and excellent communication skills are also required. They need to be detail-oriented and good with numbers. They must be familiar with tax regulations, deductions for benefits, charitable contributions, retirement contributions, and other savings. They must keep up-to-date on any changes to these contributions as well. Payroll managers typically work closely with the human resources and accounting departments and work in almost all industries.

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National Average Salary

Payroll manager salaries vary by experience, industry, organization size, and geography. To explore salary ranges by local market, please visit our sister site

The average U.S. salary for a Payroll Manager is:


Payroll Manager Job Descriptions

When it comes to recruiting a payroll manager, having the right job description can make a big difference. Here are some real world job descriptions you can use as templates for your next opening.

Example 1

Our payroll manager will be responsible for all of the activities related to the preparation and settlement of the company’s weekly payroll in the United States. This includes our workday payroll system management and administration and responsibility for payroll taxes, accounting, and reconciliation. You’ll also manage the processing of payroll for all clients according to their monthly, semi- monthly, or bi-weekly calendar, in multi-state environments, including manual/cash payroll clients. As an ideal candidate, you have proven experience in payroll administration and in-depth knowledge of payroll regulations, processes, and functions. You are analytical, methodical, and possess strong organizational skills and attention to detail.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Implements and manages payroll procedures and processing systems
  • Prepares payroll reports, including savings deductions, exemptions, and insurance coverage
  • Calculates federal and state income taxes, social security taxes, unemployment payments, and workers compensation payments
  • Manages the payroll team, providing training and guidance as needed
  • Issues checks, direct transfers, or other payment methods to employees
  • Recruits, interviews, hires, and trains new staff
  • Handles payroll updates for new hires, terminations, and changes to pay rates
  • Identifies and recommends updates to payroll processing software, systems, and procedures

Education and experience

  • Bachelor’s degree in finance, business management, accounting, or a related field
  • 3-5 years of related experience

Required skills and qualifications

  • Strong knowledge of the payroll functions and processes
  • Excellent organizational skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Solid analytical and problem-solving skills
  • Excellent leadership skills
  • Proficient with Microsoft Office Suite or related software
  • Proficient with payroll software
  • Excellent communication skills

Preferred qualifications

  • Master’s degree in human resources, finance, business administration, or related field
  • Prior supervisory experience
  • Experience with PeopleSoft or Oracle
  • Experience in payroll tax preparation

Example 2


  • Supervises Payroll staff and ensures the accuracy and timeliness of the biweekly and off-cycle payrolls and produces related payroll reports. Reviews edit reports and balancing reports. Ensures direct deposits, paychecks, and bank files are complete and accurate. Prepares and posts payroll related journal entries
  • Runs standard payroll reports and writes custom payroll reports and queries. Coordinates the interface of Kronos data into other software systems
  • Provides exceptional customer service and support to all users of Kronos including one-on-training and creation of user training and reference materials
  • Researches payroll regulatory changes. Attends the appropriate education to ensure knowledge base is kept up to date. Monitors and reacts to changes in Internal Revenue Service requirements regarding payroll. Conducts staff training for changes in these requirements, and changes in the payroll processing software. Communicates with other departments and management of significant issues that require coordination between departments to ensure
  • Balance the quarter and year-end payroll records for accuracy and completeness for w-2 purposes
  • Updates Payroll Policies and Procedures as needed when the environment or regulatory changes mandate.
  • Consistently review work for process improvement
  • Must be able to maintain employee trust and protect operations by keeping information confidential
  • Role models the principles of a Just Culture and Organizational Values
  • Perform other duties as assigned. Must be HIPAA compliant


  • Hospital payroll experience preferred
  • Must have strong knowledge and experience with (1) payroll policies and procedures, (2) federal and state payroll statutes, (3) payroll record keeping and reporting requirements and procedures, (4) bookkeeping and accounting including reviewing, posting, balancing, and reconciling financial records
  • Must be able to research and analyze regulatory updates and other information impacting the payroll system and to coordinate the implementation of required changes to Kronos
  • Must be able to work independently to plan and prioritize own workload while maintaining exceptional accuracy within strict deadlines
  • Must be able to work as part of a team with a strong sense of urgency, reliability, and flexibility
  • Must be able to maintain employee trust and protect operations by keeping information confidential
  • Must have significant experience with basic methods and practices of software testing and implementation


  • Graduation from an accredited college or university, with an Bachelor’s degree or higher is required
  • Accounting, Finance, Business, Economics or a related field of study is preferred


  • CCP designation preferred

Example 3

Specific duties

  • Serves as key contact for all payroll matters
  • Ensures compliance with local, state, and federal labor laws in policies regarding payroll
  • Prepares, processes, and audits the semi-monthly payroll with over 400 faculty, staff, and student employees
  • Maintains payroll database and files for all employees
  • Enters new employee and time hours data into the Payroll/HRIS system
  • Manages and provides training for online timesheet preparation
  • Reviews time sheets, wage computation, and other data for accuracy
  • Validates receipt of proper documents authorizing payment
  • Processes off-cycle salary adjustments and terminations
  • Prepares payroll journal entries and to the general ledger
  • Provide audit support including Workers Compensation, 403b, and Financial Aid reporting


  • 5+ years experience in payroll processing at a college/university or organization with multiple pay cycles and daily part-time shifts
  • Adherence to deadlines
  • Ability to maintain the highest level of confidentiality for all employee payroll and personnel records
  • Familiarity with International Tax Treaties and how to apply to international students
  • Prior experience with Paylocity and WebTime or other similar payroll systems and data entry
  • Strong time management, organizational skills and attention to detail
  • Excellent math and intermediate Excel skills

Example 4


  • Manages payroll processes, accurate and timely pay to associates – through management of Analysts and Coordinators, ensures the organization’s payroll workstreams are optimal and efficient. Oversees timely and accurate data collection and calculation, system uploads, issuance of paychecks and electronic transfers
  • Manages payroll research, analysis, and troubleshooting – oversees research, analysis, and troubleshooting of the organization’s payroll, including all payroll systems administration, and handling internal/external questions
  • Manages team – selects and hires, allocates work, trains, and develops, makes recommendations for personnel actions and compensation, and motivates associates. Manages and evaluates performance – sets goals and objectives for the team, and with individual associates
  • Ensures integrity and compliance for all payroll processes and procedures. Maintains associate confidence and protects payroll operations by keeping information confidential. Audits payroll results, ensuring legislative compliance and internal reporting requirements. Ensures SOX compliance for all processes and procedures


  • Bachelor’s Degree or equivalent (business, finance, accounting preferred). CPA or MBA preferred
  • 7+ years relevant experience
  • High level of proficiency in Microsoft Office and department’s Payroll/Accounting/Financial Systems
  • Extensive knowledge of the payroll function and familiarity with Workday payroll system and ADP AVS systems preferred
  • Ability to communicate clearly in both verbal and written form and relate effectively with others
  • Knowledge of applicable federal and state wage and hour laws
  • In-depth knowledge of payroll and accounting, including process, procedures, internal controls, and financial statements
  • Exceeds needs of customers (external, internal, and team members)
  • Demonstrates innovative thinking and problem solving/guides others in problem solving
  • Associate management skills, including developing, training and coaching team
  • Planning and resourcing skills – optimizes resources and workflow

Candidate Certifications to Look For

  • Certified Payroll Professional (CPP). Offered by the American Payroll Association (APA), the CPP certification proves a candidate’s knowledge in the areas of core payroll concepts, compliance, paycheck calculation, payroll processes and supporting systems, payroll administration and management, audits, and accounting. Candidates must have a combination of professional experience and education to qualify to sit for the CPP exam. Certification is valid for 5 years. CPPs must earn at least 120 recertification credit hours during the 5 years to achieve recertification.
  • Certified Payroll Specialist (CPS). The CPS certification is accredited by the National Association of Certified Payroll Specialists (NACPS) and validates a candidate’s knowledge and skills in using QuickBooks, as well as their experience in payroll and accounting. Eligibility requirements include an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in accounting or equivalent, such as completing an approved certificate program. Candidates must also have 2,000 hours of bookkeeping, accounting, or payroll experience. They must agree to abide by the professional code of conduct and pass a three-part exam. In order to maintain certification, CPSs will need to complete 16 hours of continuing professional education annually.
  • Certified Payroll Manager. The Certified Payroll Manager designation enhances a candidate’s knowledge and skills in the basics of wages, paycheck fundamentals, payroll reporting requirements, and payroll operations. Candidates will learn the requirements, processes, and procedures they need to advance their careers. Training covers all aspects of payroll, such as how to properly classify workers, apply for various exemptions, calculate gross pay, and properly make deductions, properly identify, pay, and withhold taxes for employees, administer deferred compensation, sick pay, and other compensation, and much more.

Sample Interview Questions

  • How would you respond to an employee who complains about errors in their paycheck? What steps would you take to investigate?
  • What do you do if you notice a mistake in the payroll that resulted in an employee being under or overpaid?
  • How do you go about forecasting next year’s payroll expenses?
  • Are you familiar with documenting guidelines for payroll processes?
  • What do you do if you see a stark gender pay gap in a specific department within the company?
  • What payroll software are you familiar with?
  • Have you worked with HRIS systems? If so, which ones?
  • How do you check your work for accuracy before submitting payroll?
  • What’s the best method of timekeeping for employees who do shift work?
  • What is included in local taxes withholdings?
  • What is the overtime pay rate for non-exempt employees?
  • How do you ensure deadlines are met?
  • Can you describe a time when you successfully managed a stressful situation?
  • What resources do you use to learn about new labor regulations?
  • What change to a payroll process have you made to streamline it? Was it successful?
  • How would you explain financial and insurance details to employees in simple terms?
  • What are the main differences between an employee and a contractor?
  • What is FICA, and how is it calculated?
  • Can you name some examples of voluntary deductions?
  • Which benefits are taxable?

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