In order to be successful when applying for a job as a payroll manager, you will need to demonstrate that you have the skills and abilities required to carry out this demanding role well.

Before we look at the essentials skills you need for this career, here’s a brief list of responsibilities that you would be undertaking in the role as a payroll manager. In order to hone your skills, knowing your role is essential.

  • Establish comprehensive processes and procedures for payroll
  • Verify accurate and timely wage calculations, overtime by state, and termination pay
  • Develop formal reporting system to communicate results of audit activities to management and regulatory compliance agencies
  • Provide excellent customer service to Human Retargets Business Partner and employees
  • Responsible for all wage, tax, and service reports

Also, here are some skills and requirements desired by employers (generally, though not always):

  • Knowledge of related federal / state / local laws and regulations
  • Supervisory Experience
  • Excellent communication and project management skills
  • Experience with ERP, ADP systems

Now with an overall understanding of what employers are looking for, it is time for a thorough skills evaluation before planning on your career as a Payroll Manager.  Here are six of the most important skills that you need and would be evaluated for during the hiring process and thereafter:


Strong mathematical skills

A payroll manager must feel comfortable working with numbers. This doesn’t only mean calculating totals from columns of figures, but also related skills such as being able to glance at a spreadsheet or table and spot anything that – whether literally or figuratively – doesn’t seem to add up. Although you will be making heavy use of payroll software, it is dangerous to rely on this completely; fast and accurate mental arithmetic is a very useful skill to possess.

Attention to detail

You must possess a good eye for detail. Because of the nature and significance of the job, even a small error can – if left unnoticed – rapidly have highly damaging consequences. For example, consider the difference between authorising a payment of £100.00 and authorising one of £10,000! These figures might look very similar at a glance, especially when you’re tired at the end of a long day, but confusing them could end up being catastrophic.

Proficiency with payroll software

Nowadays, all employers will expect a payroll manager to be competent at using software relevant to the job. IT skills are therefore of great importance to anyone wishing to make a career in this field. At a basic level, this means that you will be expected to be able to use standard office software such as Microsoft Word and Excel. However, you will also need to demonstrate that you have the skills to use dedicated payroll software efficiently and productively.

Ability to work under pressure

There is great responsibility associated with being a payroll manager and you will often be under considerable pressure to work quickly. However, it is crucial that you can cope with this pressure; since errors in payroll matters can cause significant damage to both a company’s reputation and its employees’ own finances, it is imperative that these be reduced to an absolute minimum. You will also have to be prepared to work to tight deadlines on a regular basis.

Leadership and teamwork skills

Although the number of people in a company’s payroll department will depend on the size and complexity of that company, a payroll manager will always require the ability to lead and motivate the employees he or she manages. Particularly important in this area are motivational abilities: many payroll-related tasks are hard work and some can be repetitive and tedious, making it vital that you be able to impart a sense of purpose and belonging to your team.

Reliability and honesty

Payroll manager is a job suitable only for those with impeccable trustworthiness and complete dependability. Since you will be entrusted with a large amount of highly sensitive and confidential information, you must be absolutely reliable in your ability to handle this appropriately and discreetly. You will probably see a lot of data not in the public domain, some of which could have commercial or even legal implications if carelessly handled.