This may be the best time in recent years to be a payroll specialist. As many businesses seek to expand their workforce, hiring managers are eager to find skilled professionals who can keep payroll-related operations running smoothly.
But even in a hot employment market, great opportunities won’t just fall into your lap. You’re not the only payroll specialist looking going after any given job, so you have to make yourself stand out to employers. And the job search tips you’ve used in the past may not work if the job isn’t advertised in the place you're looking.
You already know how to search job boards and dress for interviews, but there’s more you can do to get noticed and find the best workplace for your payroll career. Here are five job search tips you may not have considered:
1. Use the right keywords
Many employers today use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to filter cover letters and resumes. This platform is not only a good way for human resources employees to stay organized; it also saves them time by scanning for specific words and phrases related to the position. For example, if the job requires proficiency in certain software, an employer may run searches for terms like “SAP” or “ADP Workforce.”
The key, of course, is to increase the chances that the ATS flags your application as more relevant than most in the haystack and puts it in front of the hiring manager. But how do you know what they’re seeking? The job posting contains the most clues. Go over the required and preferred qualifications, and jot down what the company wants. That might include payroll certifications, such as the Certified Payroll Professional (CPP), and experience or expertise in the following:
- Multi-state payroll
- Benefits systems/benefits deductions/benefits premiums
- ADP/Paylocity/QuickBooks expertise
- State regulations/federal regulations
- HRIS (human resources information system)/HRMS (human resources management system)
Comb through the posting to make your list of words to use in a resume and put them in your cover letter, too.
2. Tailor your resume to each job
You write a new cover letter for each opening, but you shouldn’t stop there when it comes to customizing your application materials. Your resume should not be a one-size-fits-all document. Its purpose is to answer a prospective employer's main question: “Why should we hire you for this payroll position?” And as no two jobs are alike, your resume should be different for each one.
Much like using keywords, you need to carefully analyze the job posting and make sure your application speaks to those criteria. For example, if the company has employees all over the country, your documents should highlight your thorough understanding of the issues related to multi-state and federal payroll, including taxes, withholdings and regulatory compliance.
3. Leverage LinkedIn
If you think LinkedIn is just a stuffy version of Facebook, you’re not using it right. When properly leveraged, LinkedIn acts as an extension of your resume — it contains all relevant information, including what you can’t fit in a one- or two-page document. Some of these details include photos, videos, presentations, lists of accomplishments and your recent activities with professional groups on LinkedIn.
This business-oriented social network also offers another powerful feature: recommendations and endorsements. Your professional contacts can vouch for your many abilities, such as payroll, employee benefits, human resources, accounting, PeopleSoft and HRIS. People you’ve worked with can also write endorsements about your technical skills, work ethic, soft skills and so forth. Reach out to former coworkers and supervisors, with a polite reminder of your accomplishments.
Also, to help potential employers find your LinkedIn profile, include the link to your profile on your cover letter, resume and business card.
4. Put your best qualities above the fold
The concept of “above the fold” comes from what’s visible on the top half of the front page of a traditional newspaper, or what you see when it’s folded in half on the newsstand. The most important stories go there, because that’s what is designed to catch their eye to make them buy.
This same idea applies to your resume, even though it’s being viewed electronically. Move things around so the best stuff is near the top and is immediately in front of the hiring manager’s eyes. Do you bring to the table some of the best personality traits? Are your Excel skills a source of pride?
After the ATS flags applications that contain certain keywords, most hiring managers spend only a few seconds scanning the text before deciding whether to keep reading or click on the next candidate. Hook them right away.
5. Go offline, and don’t be shy
As powerful as LinkedIn and online job boards are, some payroll positions are never even advertised. So how do people find out about those hidden jobs? Talk to your professional network — friends, former colleagues and acquaintances — to let them know you’re in the market for a new payroll job.
Attending events like conferences and seminars is also a great way to expand your circle of contacts. And don’t be shy about reaching out to your dream employers to let them know about your interest in joining them and what you can bring to their team — even if they don’t have any openings posted out in the wild.
Rewards of following job search tips
A successful job search makes good use of all the tools at your disposal. It also takes time. With just a little extra effort — using both common and uncommon job search tips — you can improve your odds of landing a great new job in the payroll department.
Read more about the temporary roles Accountemps places, along with job descriptions that detail the responsibilities and requirements.