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When you file for unemployment benefits, you may be required to participate in a phone or in-person interview with your state department of labor. Usually, these interviews are conducted to gather more information about your eligibility for unemployment benefits, or to investigate discrepancies between your version of events and your former employer's. You can expect to be asked questions related to the reasons for your termination and the information that you submitted on your application for benefits, as well as your efforts to find a new job.
Preparing for Your Interview
In many cases, the letter or email you receive from the unemployment division will inform you of the reasons for the interview. If the interview is because they need to clarify information on your application, it’s likely that the initial letter will outline the information required. For instance, the interviewer may have questions about why you waited to file for unemployment after leaving a job. The questions may also be related to clerical errors, such as leaving off a date or other incorrect details. Other questions to expect may have to do with the time leading up to your dismissal, such as: “What actions did you take to resolve problems?” “Did you receive any warnings?” “What specifically led to your termination?”
For this reason, make a copy of your unemployment application for your records so that you can refer to the document you submitted as you answer the questions. Before your interview, you might want to jot down some notes about your employment history, including the names of employers, dates of employment, actions you took to avoid being fired, what led up to the firing. That way, when the interviewer asks questions, you won’t be flustered or inadvertently provide inaccurate information.
Answering the Questions
When you are scheduled for an interview based on a discrepancy between your application and your former employer’s statement, the questions may be more detailed. You may be asked to share the reason you were given for being fired, for instance, or why you are no longer employed. The most important thing to remember when answering these questions is to answer only the question that is asked, and avoid offering additional or excessive details. The interviewer is not looking for your side of the story or for you to explain why your employer was wrong to fire you. A question like, “What was the reason the employer gave you for your termination?” requires a simple answer, such as “I was told that I was insubordinate,” or “My boss said that my performance was not acceptable.” Avoid the temptation to provide any more details, because they could have a negative effect on your case.
Other Possible Questions
In some cases, an unemployment interview may be focused on your efforts to find work or why you have not accepted any work since your benefits began. Again, keep good records about your efforts to find work, and when asked, give concise answers that answer only the question that’s been asked. This is especially important when answering questions about why you refused work. If the employment division finds that you refused work that they deem “suitable,” you could lose your unemployment benefits. Therefore, if you did refuse employment, be prepared to explain why it was not suitable.
When answering any of the unemployment interviewer’s questions, be honest. Do not lie or exaggerate your claims. Again, answer only the specific questions you are asked. Offering additional information, even when you have evidence to support your assertion, can work against you. Doing so could lead the interviewer to think you are lying or being evasive, which may trigger further investigation.
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An adjunct instructor at Central Maine Community College, Kristen Hamlin is also a freelance writer and editor, specializing in careers, business, education, and lifestyle topics. The author of Graduate! Everything You Need to Succeed After College (Capital Books), which covers everything from career and financial advice to furnishing your first apartment, her work has also appeared in Young Money, Lewiston Auburn Magazine, USA Today, and a variety of online outlets. She's also been quoted as a career expert in many newspapers and magazines, including Cosmopolitan and Parade. She has a B.A. in Communication from Stonehill College, and a Master of Liberal Studies in Creative Writing from the University of Denver.