In a small company, the timekeeper may perform both timekeeping and some payroll duties. In a large company, her role might be restricted to timekeeping. If you were fortunate enough to obtain an interview for a timekeeper position, be prepared to answer a set of standard timekeeper questions.
Systems and Procedures
Employers must develop a timekeeping system to track employees’ time, and the system can be manual or automated. The interviewer might test your knowledge of timekeeping systems. Say that you know that the manual system means calculating hard copy time sheets by hand. Automated systems generally perform calculations based on employees’ time punches; you would simply make the necessary edits. If asked how you would handle missing punches, explain that you would follow company policy, which should be in line with applicable state or federal law.
Solid knowledge of timekeeping laws gives you an advantage over candidates who don’t have that background. These laws include both federal and state requirements. For example, if asked to explain rounding procedures, say that federal law permits an employer to round employees’ time to the nearest five minutes or to the nearest one-tenth or quarter of an hour. Add that it’s best to check state law, which might have rounding procedures of its own. If asked to explain your knowledge of payroll record-keeping, say that under federal law records on which wage calculations are based, such as time cards, must be kept for at least two years. If the job includes performing payroll tasks, discuss the skills associated with calculating wages and deductions and generating paychecks and pay stubs. An understanding of federal and state wage and hour and employment tax laws is helpful here.
If you are asked to list the top skills for the job in question, you can start with distributing and gathering time cards for each pay period. Say you must review the data for accuracy and confirm that the appropriating signatures are attached. You may continue by demonstrating how coding affects employees’ compensation. For example, regular, overtime, vacation, sick, personal, holiday and bereavement hours are all coded differently, and overtime hours are paid at a separate rate from the others.
You might be asked to identify a common mistake for a timekeeper and how you would correct it. For example, if you make a time card calculation error, explain how you would resolve the issue if an employee was underpaid as a result. You could say that you would take responsibility for the mistake and follow the procedures necessary to compensate the employee for the shortage.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the national average hourly wage for payroll and timekeeping clerks as $18.69, as of May 2012. However, wages vary by state, industry, employer and your experience and qualifications.
- U.S. Department of Labor: Fact Sheet #21: Recordkeeping Requirements Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
- U.S. Department of Labor: Recording Hours Worked
- California Department of Industrial Relations: Paydays, Pay Periods, and the Final Wages
- University of Missouri-St. Louis: Payroll and Timekeeping Clerks
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Payroll and Timekeeping Clerks
Grace Ferguson has been writing professionally since 2009. With 10 years of experience in employee benefits and payroll administration, Ferguson has written extensively on topics relating to employment and finance. A research writer as well, she has been published in The Sage Encyclopedia and Mission Bell Media.