Payroll Specialist Job Descriptions, Average Salary, Interview Questions

What Does a Payroll Specialist Do?

Payroll specialists are responsible for making sure employees are paid accurately and on time. They manage payroll functions, including calculating employee paychecks, withholding taxes, and any other deductions, as well as maintaining accurate payroll records for businesses, governments, and nonprofit organizations. Those who work in the payroll field must have an eye for detail and excellent communication skills.

A payroll specialist must be knowledgeable about payroll laws and regulations, including federal and state tax laws, wage and hour laws, and employee benefits laws. Furthermore, it is essential that they have experience using payroll software and other technology tools to ensure that payroll processes are accurate and efficient. They must be both technically adept and able to communicate clearly and accurately with employees and managers about payroll processes and answer questions regarding paychecks, benefits, and taxes.

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National Average Salary

Payroll specialist 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 Specialist is:


Payroll Specialist Job Descriptions

When it comes to recruiting a payroll specialist, 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

New payroll specialist needed to work at [Your Company Name] in a full-time position. The payroll specialist will be responsible for managing and maintaining payroll for employees, as well as maintaining employee and salary databases. The ideal candidate may be required to take on a managerial position in the future, as well as manage certain aspects of the overall company budget. A degree is not required, but knowledge of accounting is extremely beneficial. If you are data-driven and scientific-minded, this position could be for you. It is required that you have a comprehensive understanding of tax laws and wage policies for local businesses. If you are interested in this position, please consider applying! Thank you for your interest.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Prepare and submit paper payroll checks for employees
  • Collect banking information for direct deposit setup and initiate deposits on paydays
  • Have a knowledge of and keep current with the taxation of salaries, benefits, and other factors
  • Process and monitor garnishment orders and other issues that impact payroll specifications
  • Maintain and document all payroll records
  • Reconcile the general ledger regarding payroll transactions
  • Detect and process issues with uncollected payroll
  • Respond to employee inquiries regarding payroll issues or concerns

Education and experience

This position requires a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, or a related field.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Several years of experience in payroll
  • Strong organizational and mathematical skills
  • Ability to maintain confidentiality regarding financial matters
  • Excellent knowledge of word processing tools and spreadsheets
  • Great attention to detail
  • Excellent mathematical skills

Preferred qualifications

  • Experience managing payroll for a company with 20+ employees
  • Bachelor’s degree in finance or related field
  • Knowledge of local and state tax laws
  • Accounting certification
  • 2+ years working in payroll
  • Excellent written skills
  • Self-motivated

Example 2

We are currently seeking a Payroll Specialist to be responsible for processing payroll information, reviewing and performing payroll audits, and serving as a point of contact for questions about payment policies and procedures.

Essential duties and responsibilities

  • Processes regular payroll information on a weekly basis, as well as bonuses and off-cycle checks when necessary
  • Performs weekly overtime audits
  • Keeps abreast of the payroll processing system and changes in wage/tax laws, and applies changes as appropriate
  • Prepares follow-up for Stop Payment requests, manual check requests, and associated system updates
  • Responds to questions regarding pay policies/procedures
  • Establishes and maintains a positive working relationship with customers, both internal and external

Minimum requirements

  • High School diploma or equivalent required
  • 2-4 years of payroll processing experience, or an equivalent combination of education and/or experience, preferred
  • Should be familiar with payroll software and payroll reports
  • Proficiency with Microsoft Office, especially Word and Excel
  • Excellent listening, written, and oral communication, organizational, and time-management skills

Example 3

We’re looking for a Payroll Specialist to join our team! Full-time position working an 8-hour shift between the hours of 7 am – 6 pm M-F. The hybrid schedule can be discussed with management. Laptop provided.

Essential responsibilities

  • Preparing and processing multiple payrolls
  • Assist in data entry of new hires
  • Process all terminated employees and calculate manual checks
  • Research employee payroll inquiries or answers questions through the ticketing system
  • Assist with annual merits, increases, special, and retroactive calculations
  • Assist with other special projects as required
  • Assist in the review of bi-weekly and special payrolls
  • Processing Wage Garnishments and Child Support requests
  • Organizing Payroll Storage and documentation


  • Minimum of 1 to 2 years experience with high-volume Payroll
  • Accounting and Human Resource experience a plus
  • Processed payroll for at least 100+ employees
  • Familiar with ADP Workforce Now and Time & Attendance
  • Working knowledge of wage & hours laws
  • Familiar with state & federal taxes
  • Great energy, engaging, and enjoys collaborating with the team
  • Experience in administration of any Time & Attendance system
  • Great follow-through skills, and good with math and logic
  • Great customer service mindset
  • Attention to detail and analytical skills
  • Organizational skills
  • Flexibility and ability to multitask
  • Ability to communicate in written form

Knowledge, skills, & abilities

  • Basic office skills and abilities, knowledge of standard office equipment and software including Google Docs, Word, Excel, Adobe Acrobat, PowerPoint, and ability and willingness to learn new and/or proprietary applications as required
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills in English
  • Ability to multi-task and prioritize assignments under high pressure in a fast-paced environment
  • Willingness to work overtime if needed
  • Understanding details of full payroll processes

Example 4

The Payroll Specialist administers the 403(b) contribution and loan processes, prepares invoices for payment, and processes Foundation contributions, garnishments, and employee expense reimbursements. This role administers timecards, payroll, and payroll reporting, and ensures that payroll reports are: downloaded, secured, and backed up on the company’s network. In addition, the Payroll Specialist creates custom reports as needed from HRIS systems.

Essential functions

  • Compile payroll data, process and transmit payroll for all Wesley companies in an accurate, timely manner in accordance with established payroll processing calendars, and state and federal regulations. Assist managers, timekeepers, and schedulers with systems to ensure accurate time accounting for all employees
  • Communicate with Ceridian and other timekeeping and payroll system vendors to enable accurate, timely processing of payroll
  • Administer 403B contribution, loan payment, and electronic funds transfer on a weekly basis in compliance with the plan design and federal regulations
  • Administer electronic deposits and cash funding reports for payroll. Ensure payroll reports are downloaded and data is securely and confidentially maintained
  • Extract payroll data and import it into companies after each payroll is processed
  • Enter and extract data from multiple HR Systems for reporting, compliance, and metrics purposes
  • Provide administrative support by processing payroll-related expenses and reimbursements, responding to requests for verification of employment
  • Stay abreast of Payroll compliance issues and Payroll system upgrades via continuing professional development
  • Generate, complete and process quarterly Worker’s Comp filings with the state
  • Handle special projects and perform other duties as assigned


  • Accounting-related associate’s degree or equivalent work experience

Work experience

  • Two years of electronic payroll processing experience preferred
  • Superior written, verbal, and interpersonal communication skills
  • Advanced MS Office skills (Word, Excel, Outlook)
  • Professional, organized, detail-oriented, and customer service oriented
  • Ability to appropriately handle confidential information and maintain confidence

Candidate Certifications to Look For

  • Certified Payroll Professional (CPP). The Certified Payroll Professional certification is widely recognized and beneficial. It requires at least three years of previous experience in the payroll field. Because of this, this certification is recognized as a standard for excellence in a payroll professional and specialist.
  • Uniform Payroll Certification (UPC). The Uniform Payroll Certification is offered by the NBA as a certification to ensure techniques and payroll management skills are at a determined level. This is a good certification for any payroll specialist looking to have a recognized certification when looking for jobs or payroll specialist positions.
  • Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC). The fundamental payroll certification is designed for entry-level payroll professionals to demonstrate a competent understanding of payroll software, tasks, and work in general. This certification is open to any payroll specialist and should be considered as a potential entry-level certification. It is recognized as a relevant certification for a payroll professional and does not require any previous work experience in the payroll field or related industries. This certification is issued after the relevant exam is completed successfully. It is offered by the American Payroll Association.

How to Hire a Payroll Specialist

When hiring a payroll specialist, first consider the following:

  • Recruiting: Do you have the knowledge, tools, and resources to attract and screen candidates?
  • Complexity: Do you need a senior professional, or will mid or junior-level skills and experience suffice?
  • Duration: Is this a one-time project or an ongoing need?
  • Management: Do you have the time and expertise to direct the work effectively?
  • Urgency: How soon does the work need to be completed?
  • Headcount: Do you have the budget and approval for an internal employee, or should you consider alternate options?

Answering these questions will help determine the best course of action for your current hiring need. Fortunately, great options exist for every scenario. These are our recommendations:

1. Use 4 Corner Resources (or another professional recruiting firm)

The heavy lifting is done for you when working with a top-tier staffing company like 4 Corner Resources. We source, screen, recruit, and deliver only the most qualified candidate(s), saving you significant time and effort throughout the hiring process while you remain focused on your core business. Understanding your needs and ensuring the right candidate for the position is the key to our success.

This is the best route to take when:

  • You need to fill the position quickly
  • You want access to a vast talent pool of high-quality, prescreened candidates
  • Your position is suited for temporary hiring services, contract staffing, or contract-to-hire recruiting, and you intend to direct the work activity.
  • You are hiring an employee as a direct placement but aren’t able to recruit effectively or efficiently with your internal staff. 
  • You aren’t familiar with current salary rates, market trends, and available skill sets
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2. Hire an experienced freelancer

The freelance, or gig, economy continues to grow, with more talent available daily. Freelancers provide high-quality work without a long-term commitment. They can offer you a fresh perspective, more flexibility, and increase efficiency. While the freelance market isn’t ideal for every position, payroll specialists are often a great fit. 

We recommend this option when:

  • Your need is project-based
  • The work can be performed remotely
  • You do not intend to direct the daily work activity
  • You are hiring for expertise your internal team does not possess
  • You do not require an employee to work onsite or follow a specific schedule

When hiring a payroll specialist, we recommend using Upwork.


Upwork is a freelance talent network that helps individuals connect with experts in a variety of fields to accomplish project-based needs. When you have a specific, well-defined goal in mind, this can be a great path to hiring an experienced payroll specialist. If you are satisfied with the outcome you can continue to book the same freelancer through Upwork’s easy-to-use project interface.

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3. Post your opening on a top job board

Your best option may be to advertise your opening on a proven job board. There are many widely used job sites out there that draw visits from qualified candidates. If you have someone internally who can dedicate the time and energy to sort through applications and screen individuals effectively, this can be a great choice. 

We recommend using a job board when:

  • Your internal recruiting team has the knowledge and experience to assess candidate qualifications
  • You are hiring a direct employee and have time to manage the entire recruiting effort 
  • You have a process for receiving, screening, and tracking all resumes and applications
  • You are prepared to respond to all applicants

We recommend using CareerBuilder when hiring a payroll specialist:


CareerBuilder has been a trusted source for hiring since 1995. Reach 80+ million unique, diverse U.S. job seekers annually by posting your jobs through their talent acquisition channels. Through CareerBuilder, you can engage candidates and drive them into your sourcing pipeline. We recommend using CareerBuilder for hiring when you have the internal resources and processes to review, screen, and reply to all applicants.

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4. Leverage your internal resources

You can utilize your own website, social media, and employees to assist in your search for top candidates. 

A company website posting should be the first step in notifying prospective candidates that you are hiring. Social media can also be a powerful tool for spreading the word about your new opening. As far as exposure is concerned, this option can be as good as some job boards when you have a large enough following across various platforms, like LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter.

Current employees are every organization’s greatest asset. Encourage your internal team to promote job openings to their network by offering cash and other incentives.

We recommend these options when:

  • Your brand has great name recognition
  • You can consistently monitor and respond to candidate activity through your website and social media accounts
  • You have a process in place to quickly and broadly communicate job openings and requirements
  • You have an effective employee referral program in place

If you aren’t sure which path is best, schedule a discovery call today with our seasoned recruiting professionals. The 4 Corner team is on standby to help you find the best option for your unique hiring need.

Sample Interview Questions

  • Have you worked with payroll software or other technology to manage payroll?
  • How do you ensure payroll processes are accurate and efficient and handle payroll errors and discrepancies?
  • Have you ever dealt with a difficult payroll dispute or issue, and how did you resolve it?
  • How do you ensure that your organization is in compliance with federal and state tax laws, wage and hour laws, and employee benefits regulations?
  • If employees have questions or concerns about their paychecks or benefits, what methods do you use to communicate with them?
  • How do you ensure that payroll records are accurate and up-to-date?
  • What are your policies when dealing with confidential payroll information, including employee salaries and personal details?
  • How do you manage competing priorities and deadlines when managing payroll for a large organization?
  • What are your experiences working in a team environment with other payroll or HR professionals, and how do you collaborate with others to ensure payroll accuracy?

Need help hiring a Payroll Specialist?

We match top professionals with great employers across the country. From filling urgent job openings to developing long-term hiring strategies, our team is here to help. Review our staffing solutions, browse our award-winning Staffing Corner blog, or call today. We look forward to connecting with you soon.

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