Welcome to the Willamette Chapter of the American Payroll Association

We are a dedicated group of Payroll and HR professionals, dedicated to increasing knowledge and technical expertise within the Payroll/HR field. We welcome all who strive to keep current with changes to Federal and State regulations and further our payroll expertise. We meet in the evening on the third Thursday of every month and provide a great place to network with other associates. Please enjoy your visit and come back often to see what’s new!

May Willamette Chapter Meeting

This facilitated webinar will uncover the implications of April 2, 2019, otherwise known as “Equal Pay Day,” the specific date this year when the average man in the United States could start work and earn the same amount by December 31 as the average woman, in the same job, who had worked all year long.

Gender pay equity as a topic in the media is back with a vengeance, courtesy of #MeToo and #TimesUp. Discussions about what it’s going to take to eradicate harassment and discrimination in the workplace inevitably leads us to these questions: Is it “good enough” for employers to simply acknowledge the gender discrimination inherent in acts of sexual harassment? Or, is it time to step past acknowledgement, and into action, to truly rectify the pay equity gap?

Regardless of what your company’s views and current efforts are, it’s important to be aware that the state, city or other local jurisdiction in which you operate may have gender-equalizing laws in place.

We will be meeting on Thursday, May 16th at 6:00 pm at the Kernutt Stokes offices located at 1600 Executive Parkway, Ste 110, Eugene, OR 97401

Accountemps Monthly Newsletter–May

6 Skills Payroll Professionals Need to Move Up to Management

Interested in moving up to payroll management? There’s been no better time. Payroll managers are in high demand, and employers are offering attractive compensation to secure top talent.

Still, advancing to a managerial role can be a big step. Most companies will want to see at least five years of working in payroll, along with a relevant bachelor’s degree. For candidates without four years of college, employers regularly accept equivalent experience. This often translates as a longer work history, especially in a supervisory role. Many payroll managers also have a certification, such as the Certified Payroll Professional (CPP), but it’s not always required.

Is that all? Well, even in a hot hiring market, you’ll need to do more than meet minimum requirements. Competition for the better jobs can always be tough. And when hiring for a leadership position, employers look for gold. Here are six skills to develop that will help you stand out from the crowd and land the payroll management position you want.

1. Payroll systems experience. Employers expect senior payroll professionals to know their way around common payroll platforms such as ADP Workforce Now, Kronos and Workday. But “experience” means more than just data entry and basic navigation. Really get to know your system’s more advanced features, such as customizing portals, setting up access and permissions, changing workflow events and creating custom templates.

2. Other technical expertise. Developing your hard skills is always a good career move, no matter your position or industry. For payroll managers, that means hands-on experience with general accounting software and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, such as SAP, NetSuite and Oracle; proficiency with Microsoft Office and Google Drive is also expected. To really get ahead in your field, stay current on the latest in payroll technology, including process automation and the rise of artificial intelligence. 

Not sure where to start? Register for vendor-sponsored courses and work through online tutorials. Ask your supervisor for cross-training, or for permission to job shadow a senior payroll professional. You’ll learn a lot, and by asking for professional development and on-the-job training, you’ll show senior managers your initiative and desire to learn.

3. Business acumen. You have to have some level of expertise to advance your payroll career, of course, but try to take time to become a generalist as well as a specialist. What does this mean? Thanks to ERPs and a trend toward cross-departmental collaboration, the line between payroll and other functions is blurring. So, learn what you can about human resources, accounting and data analysis. The more you understand how a complex business operates, the better situated you’ll be to take the helm as a manager.

4. Compliance knowledge. Payroll systems continually update their software to reflect legislative changes to taxes, medical benefits and other matters that fall under payroll’s purview. However, humans — specifically, payroll managers — are ultimately responsible for making sure a company remains compliant with myriad local, state and federal requirements. To stay current, subscribe to payroll newsletters and compliance-related blogs — then make it part of your work schedule to read them. Webinars sponsored by professional organizations are also an excellent source.

5. Leadership qualities. It’s the age-old conundrum: To get a job as a payroll manager, hiring managers typically want supervisory experience. But how do you get that when you’re not yet in management? For one, you could hone your leadership skills by asking for assignments that will put you in charge of a project or team. Also, look outside the workplace for leadership opportunities, even as a volunteer (professional associations are excellent training grounds, and they offer valuable networking opportunities). Career development courses and guidance from a mentor can also give valuable insight into the qualities of leadership.

6. Excellent soft skills. Effective payroll managers know how to deal with a range of people — their team, other directors, company employees, board members, vendors and government functionaries. As you sharpen your hard skills and burnish your credentials, give as much attention to your interpersonal skills. Polished written and verbal communication, customer service and conflict resolution skills, for example, are all essential for managing people and their expectations. Managers also possess self-initiative, outstanding time management skills and similar qualities to handle their heavy work load.

Rewards of payroll management roles  

Building your skill set takes time and hard work, but it’s worth it. For one thing, salaries go up as you get into management. The 2019 Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance Professionals reveals that payroll managers can expect a starting salary of $72,750 per year. That can vary by industry and location. Use our Salary Calculator to find out what payroll manager salaries are offered in your city.

When you make yourself an authority on payroll processes and show your ability to lead effectively, you raise your profile and make yourself indispensable. That’s the gold employers look for.

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has more than 300 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services can be found on the Accountemps website.




April Willamette Chapter Meeting

W-2’s vs. 1099’s: Understanding Who Should be an Independent Contractor.

Join us to watch this Ascentis webinar, which examines how the common law rule is used to determine worker status and which three requirements are used to correctly classify a worker as an independent contractor along with the requirements for when a worker must be classified as an employee. Misclassifying employees and independent contractors are getting more costly by the day. With federal and state agencies joining forces to combat misclassification, fines and penalties have skyrocketed.

We will be meeting at Kernutt Stokes, located at 1600 Executive Parkway, Ste, 110, Eugene, Oregon, 97401 on Thursday, April 18th from 6pm to 8pm.

Accountemps Monthly Newsletter–April

What Does a Payroll Clerk Do? Find Out If You Need One

As your company grows, so does the need to hire workers. And as your payroll grows, so does the need to hire support staff. At this point, you might be asking, what does a payroll clerk do — and do I need one?

Payroll clerks, also called payroll assistants, perform a wide range of duties, primarily focused on payroll processing. In today’s tough hiring market, it can be challenging to find someone with payroll experience, so it might be necessary to offer on-the-job training. One more reason to have an answer to the question, “What does a payroll clerk do?”

In a nutshell, the job of a payroll clerk is to collect and organize time sheets, enter data related to employees and pay periods and review and process payroll. On top of that, they might answer phones, do some bookkeeping and answer questions employees have about their paychecks, from benefit deductions to vacation pay. 

The duties of a payroll clerk are typically outlined in this way:

  • Perform data entry and reconcile timecards
  • Distribute paychecks and statements to department managers
  • Answer inquiries from employees and vendors

The technical skills of a payroll clerk

As with other positions, payroll clerks should be expected to have two skill sets. Hard skills are the ability to carry out the technical and analytical functions of the job. Soft skills are the personal attributes a payroll specialist brings to the job.

On the technical side, payroll clerks need to pay close attention to detail and be comfortable with numbers. At some companies, payroll jobs are primarily data entry. At others, payroll clerks compile data and create statements, which requires proficiency with Microsoft Office applications. As for payroll software, whether your company uses ADP, Workday, Kronos, QuickBooks or other platforms, you’ll need someone who either has experience using it or is able to quickly learn new programs.  

Soft skills to do the job best

Payroll clerks should be capable of working well alone or as a member of a team. They must also have a strong ability to follow instructions, along with these skills:

  • Communication —Payroll clerks need to interact well with members of their team and other company employees, whether verbally or in writing.
  • Customer service — At times, they may have to deal with questions from coworkers, such as why certain taxes were taken out of their paychecks.
  • Confidentiality— Employee and company data are private and proprietary, so payroll clerks need to take the issues of data protection and cybersecurity seriously.

You should consider what kind of personality and work style fits best with your organizational culture. Will the payroll clerk be expected to respond to employee and vendor inquiries regarding payroll? Will they be expected to work cross-departmentally? Will the person in this position be expected to answer employee questions regarding payroll policies?

When you’re writing the job description, specify that you want solid communication, customer service and organizational skills in addition to attention to detail.

Education, certifications, training

For payroll clerks, a high school education is usually sufficient. As they advance on their payroll career path, continuing education classes and professional payroll certifications, such as the Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC) or Certified Payroll Professional (CPP), may be desirable. Both credentials are offered by the American Payroll Association (APA).

You’ll have to decide which kind of experience will work best for your company. Are you willing to train someone in your payroll system? Do you expect the top candidates to create Excel spreadsheets? Should they have a working knowledge of multi-state payroll?

Yes, it would be easier to hire someone who already knows the ins and outs of your payment processing system. But system experience may not be as important as the ability to learn it, because your needs and the tools you use to address them can change over time. 

What does a payroll clerk do for your company?

Payroll professionals, from clerks to payroll managers, are vital to the successful operation of any business, regardless of industry. You can’t wear all the hats forever, and as your company grows, so does its administrative tasks.

Payroll might seem like a straightforward duty of calculating employees’ hours and sending out paychecks. But there’s a lot to ensuring payroll gets processed accurately and on time.  Complexity enters the picture when it comes to federal and state compliance and regulations involving overtime, healthcare, workers’ comp, employee classification and taxes.

Choose temporary or full-time staffing

Keep in mind that not every payroll clerk needs to be full time. You can enlist the help of a specialized finance and accounting staffing service to find a payroll clerk to work on an interim, part-time or full-time basis — or in a temp-to-hire arrangement.

That way, the staffing agency conducts the interviews and skills evaluations and handles the details of hiring a payroll clerk who can start adding value right away, saving you time, money and hassle.

Payroll is a critical task for your company, and a talented payroll clerk can be just what you need to keep your business moving ahead.

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has more than 300 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services can be found on the Accountemps website.

Accountempts Monthly Newsletter–March

7 Ways the Contingent Workforce Can Help With Payroll–

Because of today’s historically low unemployment rate, job candidates hold most of the cards. If you’ve tried to recruit recently, you know that it’s becoming more and more challenging to find the skilled payroll workers you need. At the same time, your best employees know they have options at other businesses that could possibly pay more, enticing them to jump ship. How can you fill the gap in the meantime?

Try tapping the contingent workforce.

Here are seven ways temporary payroll staffing can help your company grow and thrive:

1. Coverage while recruiting:

After a team member leaves the company, you need to find a replacement. But what do you do between now and the time you onboard a new employee — have others pick up the slack? That’s one way to deal with hiring challenges, but a better strategy is to bring in a temporary payroll worker. Not only does that minimize the impact on the rest of the team, but it also reduces the rush to fill the gap.

Recruiting new staff on your own can be a time-consuming process in this employment environment. Many weeks can go by before you fill a job vacancy — and the wait is even longer for managerial positions. By working with an interim staffing agency, you can fill the gap by gaining access to its deep pool of candidates in your local market who have been interviewed and evaluated, and are ready to start working right away. The contingent workforce is accustomed to working for different companies and pitching in on a wide range of projects, making it an ideal solution for many accounting, finance and HR departments.

2. Improved flexibility:

Temporary payroll staffing isn’t just for filling the gap while you’re trying to fill a full-time position, though. A business’s staffing needs typically ebb and flow, depending on busy and slower periods of the year. Many businesses, particularly smaller ones, can’t afford to keep a large number of employees all year round. Hiring interim payroll professionals during peak periods allows you to react quickly to current demands without committing to long-term expenditures. Using the contingent workforce is also an efficient way to deal with employee leaves and last-minute projects. The best staffing agencies maintain a pool of finance specialists ready to start work within a few days or even hours.

3. Cost savings of a contingent workforce:

Because temporary payroll staffing allows you to add extra workers without increasing your permanent headcount, you save money. Some contract workers and consultants may cost more per hour than full-time employees, but your business would save money in the long term by not having to pay for benefits and perks or contribute to payroll taxes. You know from the outset exactly how much each interim professional will cost per week; there are no unpleasant surprises.

4. Specialized payroll skills:

The payroll field is filled with fast-changing technologies. An agency that focuses on payroll staffing can place workers not only in clerical and administrative positions, but also in jobs that require knowledge of such systems as enterprise resource planning (ERP), cloud platforms and process automation. For projects like data migrations and ERP upgrades, consultants and contractors provide the niche talent you seek — for as long or short as you need their services.

5. Fresh ideas and perspectives:

New faces can inject fresh energy and ideas to a team, even on a short-term basis. Having worked for many different organizations, interim workers bring with them a wealth of technical experiences, corporate cultures and points of view — all of which can prove to be helpful when you need to find innovative solutions to payroll problems or revise a workflow for greater efficiency.

6. Improved employee morale:

When workload goes up, morale goes down. When there aren’t enough hands on deck, the rest of the team has to pick up the slack. Overextended staff can become stressed, disgruntled and burned out — a recipe for high turnover and error rates. A contingent workforce can take the pressure off your full-time employees and help create a happier, more productive workplace.

7. Reduced full-time hiring risks:

Finding the right payroll employee can be challenging in the best of times. That’s why many companies favor a “temp-to-perm” arrangement. Hiring interim workers gives you the chance to assess their technical abilities, work ethic, interpersonal skills and cultural fit — all in real time and over many weeks rather than a few hours. If they don’t work out, they leave at the end of the contract. But if their performance and skill set are impressive, you can feel confident about extending them an offer for a full-time position.

Hiring isn’t easy, but the good news is that you don’t have to go it alone. Accountemps recruiters are experts at helping companies, both large and small, address their payroll staffing needs. Browse our database of candidates to find the payroll consultant, payroll administrator or payroll analyst who’s just right for your organization.

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has more than 300 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services can be found on the Accountemps website.

Accountemps Monthly Newsletter–November

The 8 Best Training Ideas for Climbing the Payroll Career Ladder 

 

One of the hottest job titles in accounting and finance is payroll manager, with a healthy salary to match. That’s great news for professionals with plenty of experience and skills, but how can entry- and mid-level payroll workers move up the career ladder and someday reach the top rung? Payroll training.  There are no shortcuts when it comes to advancing in this field. You need professional development. Here are eight ideas to help you climb the ladder: 

1. Get certified in payroll

In any industry, the best way to establish your credentials is to be certified by a recognized professional body. For payroll specialists in the United States, that organization is the American Payroll Association, which offers two certificates: 
 

  • Fundamental Payroll Certificate (FPC). A good place to start when building your career in a payroll department, the FPC affirms that you understand the key concepts of the field. Topics covered include labor laws, compliance, paycheck calculation, payroll administration, and audits.
  • Certified Payroll Professional (CPP). The CPP is designed for mid- and senior-level payroll staff, as there’s a prerequisite of practical experience and payroll training. This certificate attests that holders have a thorough knowledge of industry best practices and regulatory requirements, as well as the skills necessary to lead a payroll department. 

2. Find a mentor

The guidance of a senior payroll specialist can give your career a big boost. Workers who have or have had a mentor are more likely to receive promotions and be recommended for opportunities than their non-mentored peers. To find a mentor, look for people you admire who are already familiar with your abilities. If you can’t find such a person in your department, expand your search to include other payroll professionals you know.  

3. Ask to job shadow

Shadowing is similar to being mentored except that you follow a veteran payroll specialist and see how they go about their duties. It can be a very enlightening part of your payroll training to watch a senior staff member solve problems, use technology and interact with colleagues. The length of job shadowing runs the gamut from one full workday to a few hours weekly for a quarter, so pick the option that works best for you and the specialist you’ll shadow. 

4. Request to lead a one-off project

Entry-level payroll workers don’t have many opportunities to hone their leadership skills. To gain valuable experience in this area, ask your boss if you could head up a small project. Examples include organizing the company’s annual food drive, onboarding summer interns and researching cloud-based payroll platforms. Even if the project is relatively minor, you’ll improve your communication abilities and raise your profile.

5. Upgrade your Excel skills

Microsoft Excel may not be the most glamorous piece of business software, but it is the most widely used today. If you haven’t kept up with its more advanced features, search online for on-demand or in-person courses. Many videos and webinars are available for free. Payroll professionals should know about conditional formatting, pivot tables, V-lookups, and tables and charts.  

6. Get payroll training in analytics

Big data analysis is changing today’s corporate landscape. Payroll departments are increasingly expected to make sense of large volumes of data in an effort to help companies maximize efficiencies and reduce costs. If you know your way around the use of large data sets and have a flair for analytics, consider additional training in this field.

7. Become proficient in financial software

Learning more about the integrated system (e.g., Enterprise Resource Planning) your department uses for payroll can help you understand how payroll interacts with the rest of the company on a digital level. Knowing how data and workflow is tracked across various departments is key for moving up to a role in payroll management. 

8. Boost your compliance know-how

Regulations are a given in the payroll field, and compliance is an overhead expense for every business. The burden is easier to manage when staff know the ins and outs of legislation that affects their company. If you can stay up to date on the latest compliance requirements, you will be seen as an invaluable member of the payroll team.
 
When considering which staff members to promote, management looks at much more than just seniority. They want employees with leadership potential who keep up with this fast-moving field. So advocate for the payroll training you need. And if your boss doesn’t provide it, take the initiative to get it on your own. 

What is the starting salary for payroll managers in your town? Find out in the 2019 Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance Professionals.

 

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has more than 300 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services can be found on the Accountemps website. 

Accountemps Monthly Newsletter–October

What You Should Know About the Latest in Payroll Technology

Digital transformation is a term that can make some payroll professionals ill at ease. At the very least, it means learning a new platform. But it can also mean some payroll job responsibilities will be automated — a cause for worry about job security.

The current wave of digital transformation is especially disruptive, and payroll departments across the country are affected — but it’s really nothing a savvy payroll specialist should be suspicious of.

Technology has and will continue to change the way you work, but it will also create new opportunities. Motivated professionals can ride this wave and land themselves a more rewarding — and possibly higher-paying — job than before.

Robert Half’s Benchmarking the Accounting and Finance Function 2018 report offers a definitive overview of the current state of IT within the world of finance. To get ahead in your field, here are four trends in payroll technology you should know about:

1. Adoption of cloud-based ERP — The latest Benchmarking data shows more and more companies are moving to cloud systems. Seventy-five percent of the U.S. finance professionals surveyed say their company has already made the transition or plans to do so in the near future, compared to 72 percent in 2017 and 62 percent the year before that. For payroll teams, this may mean leaving their existing software platform and adopting Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems in the cloud.

Cloud-based systems make it easier to share data, work remotely and stay up to date on the latest tax codes. Companies also like this shift because there’s less equipment to buy and maintain. Going forward, having hands-on experience with Microsoft Dynamics, NetSuite, Oracle, SAP and other ERPs will be a major asset on any payroll resume. Excel is still the top planning and budgeting tool, beating out the likes of Cognos and Hyperion, but our annual benchmarking study shows reliance on Excel is declining slightly — it is used by 63 percent of respondents this year, compared to 69 percent in 2017.

2. A move toward data analytics — Powerful new systems like cloud-based ERP software generate vast amounts of data, which, in turn, can offer an unprecedented level of insight into a company’s operations. This means a shift in many back-office teams — away from purely functional work and toward a more strategic role. Payroll is a treasure trove of financial and HR data, and management will expect staff to make sense of big data by using payroll analytics tools.

3. Increased process automation — Automation has removed much of the rote work from finance and HR teams. A prime example is the self-service benefits portal, which has made it possible for employees to track their own time, update personal information and manage their benefits without ever having to contact another person. Automation has streamlined payroll processing and reconciliation, freeing up staff time for higher-value tasks. It also improves accuracy.

The down sides, according to some of the executives surveyed, are the high cost and learning curve of the automation software. But there’s no doubt that financial automation is the present and future.

4. The rise of artificial intelligence — Yes, artificial intelligence is related to automation, but it’s a lot more than that. As part of digital transformation, AI algorithms detect patterns and shifts in big data and analyze them so humans can make sense of it all. Thanks to self-learning, also called deep learning, AI systems can evaluate their past performance to improve future predictions. If you have a weather app on your phone (and who doesn’t?), you’re benefitting from the powers of AI.

In terms of payroll, AI excels at analyzing all sorts of variables — employee classification, age, withholding amounts, and so forth — and can improve accuracy by detecting nonobvious errors in paystubs. Then there are chatbots, which can handle routine employee queries.

With automation and AI, the payroll department of the future will undoubtedly have fewer clerks and data enterers. At the same time, staff will still be needed to perform more cognitively demanding and creative tasks. Humans excel at handling nonroutine situations. And don’t forget about the human experience that’s at the heart of talent management and payroll. No matter how fancy a company’s AI program is, people will always crave human interaction in the workplace.

The bottom line

The entire finance industry, including payroll, is undergoing a digital transformation. It’s not a matter of if, but when. No one knows exactly what this field will look like in 50 years, but one thing’s for sure today: The answer is to not be suspicious of payroll technology. Instead, use it to your advantage so you can become a smarter, better informed and more valuable payroll professional.

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has more than 300 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services can be found on the Accountemps website.

Accountempts Monthly Newsletter–September

How to Build a Career in the Payroll Department

With low unemployment and more than 200,000 new jobs created each month, it’s easy to see why payroll professionals are in huge demand. Interested in a career in payroll? Read on for answers to common questions about working in this field.

Q: How do I get started in payroll?

A: While payroll experience is preferable for an
entry-level clerical position, it’s not mandatory. The minimum educational requirement is a high school diploma or GED, and employers are willing to offer on-the-job training to new payroll hires. A background in bookkeeping, human resources or administrative assistance can easily transfer to payroll.

Q: What does a payroll clerk do?


A: This entry-level position is part payroll and part clerical. Working under a supervisor, you would assist with data entry, filing, answering employee questions and maintaining accurate records. The payroll department and human resources work closely together, so as a
payroll clerk, you might deal with employment verification, processing new hires’ paperwork and helping with orientation. In some departments, a payroll clerk also carries out basic bookkeeping duties.

Q: What are employers looking for in an entry-level payroll clerk?

A: Besides a high school diploma, basic computer and math skills are common requirements. Relevant experience is a plus, but often not required for the right candidate. Job skills are essential, though. Employees appreciate applicants who demonstrate professionalism, can solve problems independently, have good written and verbal communication, pay attention to detail, and provide excellent customer service.

Q: What types of software does a payroll department use?


A: You should be proficient in Microsoft Office, especially
Excel, Word and Outlook. Most payroll departments use one of the following pay-processing systems: Sage, ADP, PeopleSoft, UltiPro, Workday, Kronos, Dayforce, Paychex and Paycom. The more you advance in the department, the more you’ll be expected to be proficient in SAP, FreshBooks, NetSuite, Oracle and other financial software.

Q: What is the typical career progression in payroll?

A: After a few years as a payroll clerk, you’re ready for the next rung on the ladder. As a payroll specialist, you would be working more independently in processing payroll, employment verification forms, garnishment orders and so forth. You’d also serve as backup for the payroll coordinator/administrator. At the top of the payroll org chart is the payroll manager, who supervises a team, handles higher-level accounting functions, stays up to date on legislative compliance and trains staff on software, year-end closing and payroll best practices.

The higher you go in the payroll department, the more degrees you’ll need. After a GED, the next step is an associate or bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, management, business administration or human resources. A master’s degree is a preferred qualification for those planning on advancing to a leadership role in HR or finance.

Q: Does payroll have a certification program?

A: Yes. The American Payroll Association (APA) offers two industry-recognized payroll certifications. Created for entry-level employees, the Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC) covers the core concepts required to get started in the industry. The good thing about this credential is that no prior payroll experience is necessary. To pass the exam, the APA recommends six to 12 weeks of study and review. The organization offers study guides, prep courses, web-based training, books and a boot camp.

For those with more experience and wishing to lead a department, the Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) offers an advanced overview of payroll topics, ranging from a mastery of core concepts to in-depth accounting and finance practices.

Both certifications verify a specific level of knowledge and can help you stand out from other applicants during a job search.


The payroll department is a rewarding place to work, bringing you into contact with people from every aspect of an organization. If you’re looking for a career with plentiful job opportunities and interesting work, now is a great time to get your foot in the door.

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has more than 300 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services can be found on the Accountemps website.

Accountempts Monthly Newsletter–August

7 Things to Look for When Hiring a Payroll Specialist

Candidates for payroll specialist positions come with varying skills, expertise and work history. They also work in different roles, from entry-level payroll clerk to payroll administrator and payroll supervisor.

As a manager, you know you need operational support staff to process payroll, distribute paychecks, prepare statements and ensure governmental compliance. But as you scroll through the job postings and resumes, you may wonder about the best practices for finding payroll professionals, the key interview questions to ask and what, specifically, you need to look for when you’re filling these roles.

What are the key attributes of a payroll specialist?

Education and experience may be clearly defined, but what about other qualifications? Here are seven key features to look for when hiring a payroll specialist.

1. Payroll certifications

The American Payroll Association (APA) offers two types of certification: the Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC) and the Certified Payroll Professional (CPP). The FPC is for entry-level staff, and the coursework for this certification gives a thorough introduction to this field. FPC holders are ideal candidates as payroll clerks or other mid- to entry-level positions.

For managerial positions and more complex payroll roles, look for candidates with a CPP. This advanced certification requires previous experience in the field and in-depth knowledge of core concepts such as employment taxes, employee benefits and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). CPP holders have also demonstrated their knowledge of paycheck calculations, payroll systems and payroll administration.

2. Payroll software experience

Most payroll platforms are complex. There can be quite a bit of variation from one system to another, and those skills aren’t always transferable. For example, a person with extensive experience in ADP Workforce Now may not be comfortable with Kronos.

In an ideal world, it’s better to seek candidates with direct experience in your department’s particular software rather than those who might need in-depth training to get up to speed. But because hiring in this field is highly competitive, it pays to consider candidates who haven’t worked with your company’s particular platform but show an aptitude for learning new software.

3. Other software skills

Beyond ADP, Kronos, Workday or Intuit, look for knowledge in a variety of other software. These must-have programs include Microsoft Office, especially Excel, Word and Outlook. Some payroll experts’ roles overlap with accounting, especially in smaller businesses, making proficiency in QuickBooks or Quicken an asset. And of course, because so much of reporting and payment processing has moved online, your new staff member should be comfortable with cloud technology.

4. Understanding of compliance

The regulatory landscape surrounding payroll and benefits is complex. Besides FLSA, there’s the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA), Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA), Affordable Care Act (ACA), data protection rules and a host of state and city ordinances to consider. While payroll software platforms can help you stay compliant, they’re not foolproof. The best protection is to have staff who understand the rules and know how to put them into practice. At the interview stage, ask candidates questions about compliance and gauge their level of familiarity with the recent legislation.

5. Attention to detail

Payroll staff members can’t afford to make mistakes. For some roles in the company, you can overlook minor errors such as typos in a resume or a failure to follow the application’s instructions. But when you’re assessing payroll candidates, their attention to detail is paramount. Make this a non-negotiable attribute.

6. Customer service abilities

Payroll’s clients may be internal, but your team still needs a finely tuned customer service mindset. Payroll specialists should provide prompt and courteous responses to phone and email queries. They should be able to offer assistance when employees have trouble navigating the self-service portal. A dedication to customer service includes the related traits of confidentiality, diplomacy and problem solving.

Ask interview questions that delve into candidates’ customer-service orientation. Examples include: “How do you deal with an employee who’s angry about garnishments?” and “Would you say you’re more of a numbers person or a people person?”

7. Analysis and data skills

Software systems handle functional and routine work for most finance teams, which frees up people to spend more time on data analysis and business strategy. And this comes just in time. Today’s accounting and finance teams are actively involved in researching and evaluating new systems and software, collaborating with IT on final purchases, and implementation. It’s true in payroll, too. That’s why your ideal hires are professionals with expertise in payroll and technology. Future-proof your team by bringing in people with a background in or aptitude for working with data.

These seven attributes are not etched in stone, and your company may have other requirements, such as knowledge of multistate payroll. Use this list to help you hone in on your ideal payroll specialists, and then make a job offer they can’t refuse.

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has more than 300 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services can be found on the Accountemps website.

Accountemps Monthly Newsletter–July

How to Craft a Payroll Resume That Will Stand Out

When applying for your dream payroll job, how do you make sure you’re among the most promising candidates?  Simple: Make the resume reviewer’s job easy. Managers want to hire skilled professionals, but they don’t love the vetting process. That’s because sifting through applications can be tedious and time-consuming. Executives look at an average of 40 resumes per job opening and spend 12 minutes on each one, according to a recent Robert Half survey. From that stack, you want them to have an easy time choosing you.

Here’s how:

1. You against the machine: Use the right keywords

Managers seldom are the first ones to read job applications anymore. That goes for payroll jobs, too. When you submit your information, it often goes directly into an applicant tracking system (ATS), which scans your documents for predetermined keywords. For example, if SAP experience is a required qualification, the recruiter will search for “SAP”; a resume without that keyword won’t see the light of day — not matter how long you’ve been a super user of this enterprise resource planning software.

To get past the ATS gatekeeper, you’ve got to use language a machine understands. Make sure your payroll resume contains the right keywords. Scrutinize the job posting to figure out what terms a hiring manager (and therefore the ATS) is likely to search for. (Hint: Keywords are often the phrases listed under both “major responsibilities” and “required skills.”) Then use them naturally. Modern ATSs, not to mention the human who will eventually see your application, can detect keyword stuffing.

2. Tailor the resume to the job

After the hiring manager found you by searching for certain keywords, you need to convince them you have the entire package — experience, skills and credentials — they seek. Submitting a generic resume isn’t making the manager’s job easy. It’s likely to lead the recruiter to skip over it and go on to the next candidate. Instead, figure out what the employer wants to see and make it easy for them to see it. A summary statement is a good place to speak directly to the manager. These few sentences should highlight your most relevant and impressive skills and accomplishments. Use active verbs and stay away from buzzwords. Focus on the qualifications the job posting emphasizes. It goes without saying that you should submit a slightly different resume for each payroll job you apply for.

3. Highlight your core payroll skills

When an employer picks up your resume, the first thing they look for is your direct payroll experience, such as:

  • Payroll systems (Sage, ADP, Lawson, Kronos, Paycom and so on)
  • Credentials like the CPP (Certified Payroll Professional)
  • Multistate and/or Canadian payroll
  • Recent coursework in taxation and regulatory compliance

Many payroll jobs are blended with other related roles, especially in smaller businesses. When applying for one of these hybrid positions, be sure to mention your skills in benefits administration, onboarding/training, administrative support or accounting. Take advantage of the cover letter to draw attention to key aspects of your payroll resume and play up the breadth and depth of your industry knowledge.

4. Show off your technical abilities

Payroll is relying more and more on cloud-based platforms, not only for payroll processing but also for financial reporting and generating operational data. As such, tech skills can really make a payroll resume stand out. So if you’ve got them, flaunt them. Mention your proficiencies with Microsoft Office, especially Excel. List all the payroll, accounting and HRIS (human resources information system) software you know. What’s more, tell prospective employers you enjoy working with technology and are eager to learn new systems.

5. Demonstrate your soft skills

While it’s true that today’s payroll jobs are highly technical, much of what a payroll specialist does still relates to people. There are new employees to process and possibly onboard. When an employee’s paycheck has an error, it’s up to payroll to troubleshoot and resolve that issue. You also have to be able to work well with colleagues within and outside of payroll. All of that requires self-initiative, creative thinking, and excellent written and verbal communication skills. Bilingual abilities are a bonus. Make sure all this comes across in your resume.

Don’t just list your soft skills; tell how you’ve used them. For example, describe a time a non-finance colleague complimented you on how understandable a presentation you gave was because you tailored it to your audience and didn’t fill it with payroll-specific terms others wouldn’t know. Or, if you speak a second language, give anecdotes about how you were able to help an employee your coworkers couldn’t.

Your payroll resume is a sales brochure with one purpose: to convince prospective employers to contact you for an interview. So make it easy by “speaking” directly to them and their needs.

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has 300 locations worldwide. More resources, including job search services and the Accountemps blog, can be found at roberthalf.com/accountemps.