Payroll Specialist Resume Examples + Expert Tips

Elizabeth Muenzen, CPRW
By Elizabeth Muenzen, CPRW, Career Advice Expert
Last Updated: November 16, 2023
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Payroll specialists are responsible for processing payroll, calculating and disbursing wages and ensuring compliance with federal and state regulations. They must have exceptional organizational and communication skills and a thorough understanding of payroll laws and regulations. 

In this guide, we will provide you with tips and payroll specialist resume examples to help you create a winning resume that highlights your skills and experience. 

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Payroll specialist resume (text version)

Alyssa  Krause

West Des Moines, IA 50265
(555) 555-5555

Professional Summary

Seasoned payroll specialist bringing seven years of experience in accounting operations. Highly adept with key strengths in payroll administration functions, including discrepancy research, regulatory guidelines adherence, complex processing procedures and program management. Able to resolve issues quickly and identify mistakes on time sheets.


  • Payroll administration
  • New hire processing
  • Time sheet review
  • ADP
  • Processing garnishments
  • Attention to detail
  • Communication
  • Organization


May 2012
Drake University Des Moines, IA
Bachelor of Science Accounting

Work History

September 2017 – Current
Iowa State Job Bank – West Des Moines, IA
Payroll Specialist

  • Run bi-weekly payroll for over 2,000 employees, including set-up of warrant number for payroll date.
  • Research payroll errors and process payments for federal and state taxes, social security, Medicare and various employee deductions, annuity contributions and retirement plan withholdings.
  • Build and maintain 30 different contract calendars and manage the setup for all new banks for direct deposit and accrual year-end processes.

April 2015 – August 2017
Weitz – Des Moines, IA
Payroll Clerk

  • Oversaw day-to-day processing of payroll for 850 employees, including review of timesheets and computing pay in accordance with FLSA.
  • Performed calculations in overtime, vacation and sick hours to provide accurate data to payroll processing database.
  • Applied knowledge of regulations, employment law and tax code to keep operations in compliance with applicable standards.

October 2012 – March 2015
Pearson – Des Moines, IA
Payroll Assistant

  • Processed payrolls on both a bi-weekly and monthly basis for more than 600 employees nationally.
  • Maintained payroll information by calculating, collecting and entering data.
  • Accurately calculated bonuses, salary increases and overtime.

5 essentials of a payroll specialist resume

  1. Contact details

    Include your full name, city, state and ZIP code. In a different line, add your phone number, email address and link to your LinkedIn profile. Include any other professional website or networking website profile in this section.

  2. Personal statement

    This section is your introduction to the hiring manager. Also called a professional summary, this is where you present your best skills and your related work experience. In no more than five sentences, you will let the recruiter know how long you have been in the industry, one or two professional accomplishments and your job-relevant skills.

    Here’s an example summary for a payroll specialist resume:

    As a highly organized and detail-oriented payroll specialist, I am committed to ensuring accurate and timely payroll processing. With five years of experience in the field, I have developed a strong understanding of payroll laws and regulations, as well as the ability to effectively communicate with employees and management. I am skilled in using a variety of payroll software systems and have a proven track record of identifying and resolving payroll discrepancies.” 

    You can take a look at our resume samples for more resume summary examples for payroll specialist resumes. 

  3. Skills

    The skills you include on your payroll specialist resume will indicate to recruiters that you are the best fit for the job. Use bullet points to add a balanced list of hard skills and soft skills

    Hard skills are all about the job, like compliance, legal knowledge and administrative skills. Soft skills refer to your work habits and how you work with others, like the ability to multitask, your customer service mindset and teamwork. 

    If you have no experience, include transferable skills from other employment opportunities, particularly skills that show your leadership and management skills.

  4. Work history

    Your work history tells recruiters how much experience you have in the field. List it in reverse-chronological order and add the company names, locations and dates of employment. 

    For every job, include a bulleted list of three measurable accomplishments, like how many reports you completed, any audit you participated in, how many requests were fulfilled and so on. 

    You’ll want to demonstrate your knowledge of payroll regulations, experience with payroll software (such as ADP, Paychex or QuickBooks), and your high degree of accuracy and attention to detail.  

    If this is your first job, you can include other relevant work experience, like volunteer experiences, community services, professional projects and more.

    Experience in a related field, such as accounting or bookkeeping, can be helpful in preparing for a career as a payroll specialist. This experience provides a foundation of knowledge and skills that can be applied to the payroll specialist role.

  5. Education

    Use bullet points to present your education. Include the school name, degree and graduation years but skip the graduation year if it has been more than 10 years. Include academic accomplishments, like projects, research, scholarships or other important memberships. 

    To become a payroll specialist, a formal education is not always required, though some employers may prefer candidates with a degree in accounting, finance or a related field. A certification in payroll processing, such as the Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) designation, can also be beneficial.

    Payroll regulations and laws are constantly changing, so it’s important for payroll specialists to stay up to date on the latest developments. Continuing education courses and seminars can help professionals stay current and maintain their skills.

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Do’s and don’ts for building a payroll specialist resume

  • Use measurable achievements to describe your payroll specialist skills and experience. For example, “Reduced payroll processing time by 30% by streamlining payroll procedures and automating manual tasks.
  • Use action words — such as prepared, processed and maintained — to make an impact on your payroll specialist resume.
  • Tailor your resume to your target payroll specialist job. 
  • Use keywords from the job description throughout your payroll specialist resume. For instance, “payroll software,” “vendor management” and “benefits administration.”
  • Format your payroll specialist resume so that it is easy to read by ATS software and human eyes.
  • Lie about your payroll specialist experience and skills.
  • Boast about your “incomparable” payroll specialist abilities. Instead, provide concrete examples of your relevant experience with compliance, payroll processing and reporting. 
  • Include irrelevant personal information such as your ethnicity and age.
  • Add skills and experience not pertaining to a payroll specialist. 
  • Forget to proofread. A payroll specialist resume with errors is unprofessional.

Top 4 tips for acing a payroll specialist interview

  1. Research the company or institution before your interview.

    Learn from the website and social media profile. Take the time to learn about the company’s history, goals, values and people before the interview.

    Being able to show that you have in-depth knowledge about your potential employer shows real interest, dedication and commitment — traits that hiring managers look for every job candidate they talk to.

    Plus, having a glimpse of the company culture before you arrive will give you an idea of what to expect on arrival so that you can feel confident.

    Understanding the size of the company can give you an idea of the complexity of the payroll processes you’ll be handling. Larger companies may have more complex payroll systems and require a higher level of expertise.

    If possible, try to find out what payroll system the company uses, as this can help you prepare for the job and demonstrate your familiarity with the software during the interview process.

  2. Practice at home.

    It is almost guaranteed you will hear one of the most common interview questions. Be prepared for the expected. Take a look at some of these questions, for example:

    Remember to prepare for job-specific questions. Here are a few examples: 

    • How do you ensure accuracy in your payroll calculations?
    • What steps do you take to ensure compliance with federal and state regulations?
    • Can you tell us about a time when you had to resolve a payroll issue or discrepancy?
    • How do you handle sensitive employee information and maintain confidentiality?
    • What experience do you have with benefits administration and deductions?

    You can also practice a mock interview. Ask a friend to ask you the questions, and then provide feedback on your answers, tone and body language. 

    Write down your best answers and continue to practice in front of a mirror on the days leading to your interview. This practice will help build your confidence for this and other interviews. 

    Explore some common behavioral interview questions to prepare for your interview.

  3. Prepare questions for your interview.

    Stay one step ahead and prepare questions for the end of your interview. This process goes both ways: you’re also getting to know the employer. Have at least three questions ready for the interviewer. 

    Here are a few examples of questions to get you started:

    • What types of payroll software and tools does the company use?
    • What is the company’s process for ensuring compliance with federal and state payroll regulations?
    • How does the company handle payroll discrepancies or errors?
    • What qualities do successful payroll specialists possess at this company?
    • What is the company’s approach to employee payroll training and support?
  4. Round up your references.

    Once you are ready to start sending in applications, contact former managers and colleagues to be potential references. They should be able to vouch for you, your work ethics and your skills. Explain to them where you are in the process and let them know they could receive a phone call or email. Ask if they could prepare a letter of recommendation for you. This will depend on what the hiring manager requests.

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