How to ask the best interview questions for a job in payroll

The payroll department is an important part of any company, so when it's time to interview potential staff for a position in your team you'll want to find a person with a passion for the role who knows their way around its duties. This is someone who can handle their pluses and minuses, knows the distinction between a P45 and a P50, and can tell you the difference between a sage and SAGE. But how to find them?

From our offices in the City of London we've helped thousands of people around the country to land the perfect role for them. Part of this process is to match candidates with businesses that know how to interview their candidates – you really improve your chance of finding the right person when you know how to ask good questions. Let's look at how to do that.

Prepare your questions

There are three stages to go through to understand how to ask the best questions for jobs in payroll.

  • The first is to know your aim – what kind of information do you want to get from your candidates?
  • The second is to find a way to build questions which can help you to get that information.
  • The third is to record and interpret what the interviewee is actually saying to you – the interview is a two way process after all.

1: Know your aim

Think about this: The aim of football is to win, and to do that the team will use a strategy. Likewise, when we interview, you need to have the right tactics for your aim – to find the best candidate for your business.

Tactically speaking then, if you want to know who is the best candidate, you'll want to know which person has the right level of skill for the role. And to work our which person has the right level of skills for the role, you'll want to know what the duties the successful candidate will perform. That's because when you know the duties, you can then break them down into the particular skills you are looking for. Then you can check these skills against your candidates to find the best one.

1 B: Looking for skills

You need to think about the kinds of duties which a person in payroll would be expected to undertake.

At the core, Payroll staff make sure all employees are paid on time. Typical responsibilities for jobs in payroll may include various tax forms, spreadsheets, or an expat payroll for workers based overseas.

With these duties in mind can start to think about the kinds of questions you might need to ask the would be employee. Remember the goal here is to pull out information about how they can help. You want to know things such as:

  • Are they good with numbers?
  • Can they communicate well?
  • Are they passionate about the role and learning more about the job?
  • What's their personality like?

2: Building a good question

When you know the kind of goals you have for the interview it's time to plan your questions.

Let's say we want to find out if the candidate is good with numbers:

Instead of asking 'are you good with numbers?' You can try a different approach. Look at the following question.

'What did you do for your qualification and how do you think it went?'

This question actually asks two questions in one (where did you go – specific) (How do you think it went – open) and gives the candidate the chance to provide you with a two kinds of answer. First a specific answer, so you can see what skill they have, and then a second part which allows the candidate to use open interpretation.

By asking how they think it went, rather than what did you get as a result, you gave the candidate the opportunity to show their communication skills.

So remember, ask two part questions which get specific answers with room for open answers too.

3: Understanding the answer

In response to our question, a good candidate might have said:

"I think it went well. I had to work hard and there were times when I worried about deadlines and I needed support through some difficult problems. But at the end I finished all my work on time and achieved the highest qualification."

We can look into the response to find quite a lot of information:

  • High achiever – they got the best qualification possible
  • Strong work ethic – they work hard and are not afraid to ask for support when needed
  • Passionate – they found the task difficult but dedicated themselves to and completed it
  • Timely – the work was completed on time

Each answer to a question will have plenty of information inside it, so make sure to analyse each answer you get.

Find payroll employees

We have looked over how to find your aims, how to build questions and how to find the information that is inside a candidate's answer. All you need now are candidates to interview.

The Portfolio Payroll team helps businesses to fill their payroll vacancies with valuable members of staff. You can use our expertise, which made us the only recruitment agency recommended by the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals, whenever you like.

Contact us today on 020 7247 9455 or email Our team is available to talk with you 24 hours a day and will facilitate the fast and effective recruitment of the best possible candidates.

View Our Resources

Recruiting the right International Payroll Manager

When hiring a manager, it is important to make the right decision for your business. As top more

Recruiting For Payroll Analyst Vacancies

A payroll analyst helps to hold together the entire payroll department of a business, keeping more

Payroll RTI Tips

There are many areas within jobs in payroll where people face challenges, such as staying up more

Payroll administrator recruitment

Payroll is one of the most important parts of a business, with the staff in this department more