How to Pass an Unemployment Phone Interview

By Dan Ketchum - Updated March 14, 2018

A week or two after you've applied for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits in your home state, it's time for an unemployment phone interview with the local Employment Development Department. In addition to calling your former employers' staff, the EDD will likely contact you, the claimant, to ensure your initial and ongoing eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits. There are no right answers to an EDD telephone interview, but being well prepared helps you navigate the process and hold on to your benefits. UI programs and EDD policies vary by state, so always check out your local EDD website before your phone interview.


The key to EDD interview success lies in good record-keeping, consistency and detailed responses.

Prepare for the EDD Interview

Before anything else, make sure you are available at your scheduled interview time. The EDD will usually give you a two-hour window for the phone appointment. Missing the EDD's call is not a good look, and rescheduling can be difficult. Commonly, you'll receive a notice from the EDD listing the questions that may be asked during the interview. It's never a bad idea to scribble down your responses the day before and – this part is especially important – have as many records as possible on hand that verify those responses.

What to Expect

At the initial interview, you'll typically be asked about the conditions and actions that led to leaving your previous job. Plan to clearly express to the interviewer what steps you took to resolve the issues and to keep your job. If you've turned down an offer of work recently, be prepared to explain why the work was not suitable or be able to provide good cause for refusing suitable work in order to keep your benefits. Likewise, be ready to fill in the interviewer about your current schedule and general physical condition; unemployment benefits depend on your ability, willingness and availability to work.

Ongoing EDD Interviews

As you continue to receive UI benefits, you'll likely have to keep picking up the phone for EDD interviews. These interviews aim to make sure that you're actively seeking work for each week you receive benefits. Keep detailed notes about every resumé you email or drop off and every interview you score. Be ready to provide the contact information and the location of the employers you're courting, as well as info on the position you applied for, whom you spoke to and when you made the contact.

If you're participating in EDD-approved training or similar programs to help drum up job offers and potentially bolster your benefits, keep a log of all of your attendance hours and have it nearby when the phone rings.

Do's and Don'ts

You may have noticed a running theme: The more documentation and detail you can provide during your EDD phone interview, the better. As a general rule, keep your answers as brief and relevant as possible. Don't vent, don't color your responses emotionally and don't ramble. Remember, you're not providing an argument – you're just providing the facts. And speaking of facts, absolutely, positively do not lie during your EDD phone interview. What not to say in an unemployment interview is nearly as important as what to say, and what not to say includes any form of exaggeration or misrepresentation.

Finally, here's one key to success that should go without saying: Be polite. The person on the other end of the line is a human being, too, and at the end of the day, is only trying to help you out.

About the Author

As a freelance writer and small business owner with a decade of experience, Dan has contributed legal- and finance-oriented content to diverse sources including Chron, Fortune,, Motley Fool and MSN Money, among others.

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