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How To Hire The Right Payroll Manager

How To Hire The Right Payroll Manager

Source: IOMA's Payroll Manager's Report

Hiring a payroll staff member with just the right combination of experience and education is a difficult task. Payroll managers often run into obstacles trying to hire such qualified individuals. The employee needs enough education to understand the complex laws and regulations that govern payroll along with enough experience in payroll to be able to apply them. Payroll is a broad career field. Those employed in it can work part time, with payroll just one task among many, or full time with daily responsibilities that range from calculating gross pay to year-end. With such a varied career field, it can be difficult to quantify and qualify an applicant’s experience based on their resume or work history.

One applicant may list only three years in a small company payroll department, but during that time, she was a one-woman payroll department for 500 employees and handled timecards, garnishments, implementing a new system, deposits, quarterly returns, and handling year-end. Another applicant may have 10 years of payroll experience in a multinational corporation but actually spent her entire career assisting in timecard input and data entry.

Payroll education also is difficult to quantify. With the lack of a college degree that covers a major in payroll administration and management, most applicants list all broadly related education in hopes of impressing the potential employer. But is the education really payroll-related? More important, is the knowledge gained during the training still relevant and retained by the potential employee? In this current economic environment with so many job applicants applying for open positions, it is imperative to be able to identify the best qualified candidates.

The hiring process begins. After the decision is made to replace a departing employee or to fill a vacancy, the payroll manager first should determine the exact duties of a new employee and the minimal amount of knowledge and experience needed to fulfill that role. Questions that need to be answered include:

  • Is the department being reorganized due to the open position, with current staff members accepting new duties or being promoted to new responsibilities?
  • Will the new employee be part of a team handling several areas of the department or specialize in one area, such as taxes or garnishments? If part of a team, then you will be searching for a payroll generalist. However, if the new hire is to take on the duties of a specialized area of payroll, the search to find the right combination of experience and knowledge can get harder.

Again, because of the vast nature of the profession and the different interpretations applicants may have about their experience, payroll managers should be prepared to go beyond the normal interview techniques used by other department managers. These include: