Municipal Clerk Interview Questions
Municipal clerks work for local city and county governments. They are primarily responsible for keeping records and maintaining them for later reference.
Municipal clerks are expected to set agendas and keep records of council meetings as well as draft bylaws. They also keep track of fiscal records that relate to the operations of local government. One of their key responsibilities is keeping track of official correspondence and maintaining those records along with organizing and coordinating municipal elections.
A municipal clerk’s responsibilities include:
- Keeping records of city council meetings
- Drafting agendas and bylaws for council meetings
- Maintaining databases for government fiscal records
- Coordinating municipal elections
- Recording and maintaining records of government correspondence
A municipal clerk should be skilled in:
- Communication and interpersonal interaction
- Recordkeeping and database management
- Relevant IT skills related to recordkeeping
- Note-taking and transcription
- Financial Bookkeeping
- Time management
- Comprehension of local, state, and federal laws
A bachelor’s degree is a requirement for a municipal clerk position. Typically, a degree in public administration is preferred, but other administrative fields are applicable as well.
Previous recordkeeping and financial bookkeeping experience will give applicants a greater advantage. Time management skills are also very important due to the volume of work done by municipal clerks. Applicants must have high computer literacy since most records are digital or eventually transcribed.
Salaries for municipal clerks range between $38K and $56K with the median being $46K.
Factors impacting the salary you receive as a municipal clerk include:
- Degrees (associate's, bachelor's, master's)
- Size and Type of the Organization
- Reporting Structure (seniority of the administrator or supervisor you report to, the size and type of the organization, and number of staff you manage)
- Level of Performance - exceeding expectations
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Municipal Clerk Interview Questions
Question: How do you effectively prepare ordinances for recording or distribution purposes?
Explanation: This is an operational question which the interviewer will ask to determine how you go about performing your job. Operational questions are best answered directly and briefly. Anticipate a follow-up question to your answer.
Example: “I have found the best way to prepare ordinances for either recording or distribution is to follow a template the city uses. Doing this ensures the ordinances are presented in the same format each time, making them easy to understand and follow. This also assists the city when it is audited.”
Question: How do you go about ensuring the city is compliant with all laws, regulations, and standards that were applicable to your department?
Explanation: This is another operational question. As a municipal clerk, you must ensure your department and its activities follow all laws, regulations, and standards. You should be able to address this question easily.
Example: “Making sure the city remains compliant to all laws, regulations, and standards is a key element of my job. I go about this by first reviewing the applicable codes each quarter, checking to see if anything has been updated or modified. I then conduct my business using the processes and procedures published by the city. If a question ever arises, I reference the applicable code to make sure our activities are compliant.”
Question: Have you ever had to gather information from multiple sources? What criteria did you use to determine which information was relevant to the issue you were trying to resolve?
Explanation: This is yet another operational question. As a municipal clerk, you can anticipate the majority of questions you will be asked during an interview will be operational. The interviewer wants to understand how you go about doing your job and if your processes align with those of the city.
Example: “When preparing reports and assisting the city leaders in drafting proclamations, regulations, and other public documents, I am required to collect information from a variety of different sources. These include both online and published reference materials. I use keywords and terms to perform searches and then only use the data that is relevant to the topic I am addressing and is verified as accurate by a third-party source.”
Question: When was the last time you issued a public notification of official activities and meetings, and what issue did it address?
Explanation: Part of a municipal clerk’s job is to issue public documents, ensuring their accuracy and relevance. You should be able to discuss when you have done this in the past and how you go about doing it.
Example: “In my role, I am repeatedly asked to issue public documents. One of the most recent instances was when I had to make council meeting minutes available to the public. I do this by first collecting them and reviewing for any grammatical errors. I then post them online and also make hard copies available at City Hall. Finally, I set up systems the public can use to order copies of the minutes, either electronic or hard copies.”
Question: Describe a time when you analyzed information, evaluated results, and chose the best solution to a problem.
Explanation: As a municipal clerk, you’re often asked to analyze information and issue recommendations. You should have a defined process and procedure for doing this and be able to easily discuss it during the interview.
Example: “I am often asked to issue recommendations for a specific issue or action the city is considering. I do this by first understanding the assignment and what the city leaders are seeking to accomplish. I then collect information using the process I have previously described. I analyze the information in the context of the assignment and issue a recommendation. This includes an executive summary, the recommendation, alternatives, and a description of the information I used to arrive at my recommendation.”
Question: Can you describe your experience preparing ordinances, resolutions, or proclamations for execution, recording, archiving, or distribution?
Explanation: By asking about this process, the interviewer is seeking to understand how you go about performing this task and whether it aligns with the processes they use. Hopefully, your approach to this mirrors what the organization you are interviewing with uses. Keep in mind they may also be looking for alternatives to their current processes and improvements they can incorporate.
Example: “I have a great deal of experience with preparing ordinances, resolutions, and proclamations for execution, recording, and distribution. I’ve set up a system to make this efficient and consistent. I follow very prescribed steps and document formats so I do not miss anything and anybody reviewing the information can easily understand it.”
Question: Have you ever been asked to lead a meeting or offer an opinion that helped the organization achieve better results?
Explanation: Stepping into a leadership role in helping with process improvements is not part of a formal municipal clerk’s job description, but it is expected that you can do this when asked. You should be able to cite when you have done this and the contributions you made to the organization you worked for.
Example: “I am often asked to lead meetings, especially when the leadership team is otherwise occupied or unavailable. Having done this successfully on many occasions, the leadership team trusts my ability. The staff also appreciates my leadership attributes and are comfortable working with me as a representative of the city leaders. I’m also comfortable making recommendations for process improvements which I think will benefit the organization. One of my recent recommendations was to standardize the meeting minutes format used across the organization. This helped make the process more effective and the minutes easier to understand.”
Question: How organized are your fiscal records and accounts, and what one thing would improve the ability of others to easily access the records?
Explanation: Keeping the city’s records organized is one of the key duties of a municipal clerk. This question is a bit tricky because it assumes your records are well organized but also asks what you could do to make this process more effective. You should first state how well organized your files are and then describe something that would help to improve this, noting that you would implement this if allowed to.
Example: “I take pride in the status of my records and how well organized they are. I always double-check when filing something, and I use standardized file names which make retrieval of the records easy and quicker. The one thing I would change to improve this process would be to digitize all records, including current paper legacy records. I would then create references for each record so they could be grouped or cross-referenced as needed. While this is a large task and would require a great deal of time and effort, I believe it would be beneficial in the long run.”
Question: How effective are you at creating, presenting, and monitoring city budgets?
Explanation: Budgeting is one of the key functions of any city. Being able to discuss how you contribute to this process to make it more effective and efficient is critical to performing well during the interview.
Example: “During my career, I’ve been involved with virtually every city budget created during my tenure with the organization. I understand the process for bottom-up budgeting, which includes financial forecasts, reviewing previous budgets, incorporating best practices, and making sure the information is reviewed before being finalized. I’m very adept at creating budget documents in both summary and detailed fashion so the public is fully aware of how the city is spending their tax dollars.”
Question: What is your experience researching information in the municipal archives for public officials or citizens?
Explanation: One of the municipal clerk’s main jobs is to provide information to both public officials and the city’s citizens. You should be able to easily describe how you go about doing this and possibly discuss best practices to the city with whom you are interviewing, assuming they may want to incorporate your suggestions into their processes.
Example: “I have a great deal of experience researching information and municipal archives for both city officials and the general public. I know how to use keywords and terms to retrieve the information the individuals are interested in. I then make it available to them in either PDF or hard-copy formats. The key to this begins with properly filing and archiving information, using meta tags and references in each document so they can be easily retrieved. I have also created applications that enable municipal employees and the public to access certain documents themselves, thereby expediting this task and relieving me of the responsibility so that I can concentrate on other duties.”
Additional Municipal Clerk Interview Questions
Do you have prior experience working with local government? If so, what position did you hold?
What is your approach to recordkeeping and transcription?
Do you have experience with taking minutes of meetings?
What is your experience in financial bookkeeping? Was it in the public or private sector?
Can you organize and manage several tasks simultaneously?
How do you prioritize and organize a large workload? How well do you handle the stress accompanied by a large workload?
How well do you communicate with individuals? How about large groups?
Are you comfortable with public speaking and addressing the public?
Describe an instance when your sense of ethics and integrity were tested.
Have you ever worked as a part of municipal elections? If so, describe the experience.
A word of warning when using question lists.
Question lists offer a convenient way to start practicing for your interview. Unfortunately, they do little to recreate actual interview pressure. In a real interview you’ll never know what’s coming, and that’s what makes interviews so stressful.
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