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The CEA is an innovative software program that utilizes the interviewing skills developed by John E. Reid and Associates. This program is guaranteed to save you money in the selection of new police officers or individuals applying for a position of trust.


The Computer Employment Application (CEA) interview is a software program that functions as an interactive application that segues to appropriate lines of questioning and fact gathering dependent on the applicant's response to the initial question.

The CEA is not a static list of generic questions, but is an expert system that interviews applicants just as an experienced interviewer would, specifically responding to the applicant's answers and utilizing the appropriate follow up questions to develop additional information. This built-in expertise encourages and makes it easier for the applicant to provide complete and accurate data and, because of its structure, helps to minimize embellishments or omissions that frequently occur on written application forms.

The CEA interview system uses a personal computer as a first-stage interviewer in the hiring process and interacts with the applicant just as a personal interviewer would. The CEA is web based - with the proper password (provided by the employer) the applicant can access the CEA from anywhere at anytime.

When using the CEA, applicants make selections from menus or type in responses to questions such as their employment and military history, education and professional training, driving record, illegal drug use and involvement in criminal activity. As the applicant progresses through the interview, the program automatically stores responses to each question, follows up on these responses with additional questions when more information is needed in a particular area, and provides an opportunity for the applicant to add data or make alterations and corrections when necessary.

After the applicant has completed the CEA, you will know more about them than you ever would have known from the completion of a traditional application or resume. Consequently, you can identify potentially high-risk applicants before your organization spends a lot of time and money on unnecessary screening procedures, such as criminal records checks, drug testing, background investigations, etc.

The CEA can be specifically customized to include the relevant areas that are important to your department.


The CEA provides a structured, objective and consistent interview process. The CEA is designed to explore the applicant's answers so as to ascertain the complete truth. By identifying high risk applicants early in the process, the organization will save a significant amount of time and money. The CEA provides better information than a more thorough interview or traditional background investigation (see Research below).


Minimizes application fraud
Screens large groups of applicants quickly
Saves time and money
Contains clear and concise language
Interviews objectively, uniformly
Keeps interview on track, remembers all areas to be covered
Relieves interviewer burnout

Web based so that the applicant can access the CEA 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from any computer


The CEA questions the applicant thoroughly in the following areas of inquiry:

Applicant Personal Information
Employment Activities (Work History)
Military History
Dishonest Conduct
Criminal Record
Undetected Crimes
Driving Convictions Last 5 years
Pending Law Enforcement Charges
Use of Drugs Illegally (in compliance with ADA)
Purchase/Sale of Drugs Illegally
Alcohol Use (job related - - in compliance with ADA )
Certification/Applicant Signature Block

A written report is issued for every applicant detailing the information provided by that individual in all of the areas of inquiry.


The CEA should be utilized as the initial screening step for individuals applying for positions of trust. We have designed specific CEA programs for law enforcement and government applicants, as well as a program for the private sector.


The development of the CEA interview began in 1985. The basic core of the program was designed around the real life experience of Richard J. Phannenstill, President of Computer Employment Applications, Inc., who had been trained by John E. Reid and Associates, Inc. and had been involved in the interviewing of job applicants for business and law enforcement organizations since 1972. After 18 months of development the first CEA interview was administered to a real life applicant in August, 1987. In the following 19 years thousands of real-life job applicants have completed the CEA interview. Over this time period the program was constantly revised, modified, refined and expanded in response to feedback from the applicants as well as the client users.

In 1988, 130 real life job applicants were alternatively assigned to be interviewed by the CEA or a similarly structured face-to-face interview. The findings revealed that with respect to employment history the CEA developed similar and, in some cases, superior information in nature and scope to that developed by the personal security interview. Applicants' admissions of the use of illegal drugs were, generally, more frequent and serious in the CEA group than in the personal interview group. In the personal interview group, there were less frequent admissions of serious criminal conduct than in the CEA group. The results suggest that the use of the CEA would serve as an effective first-stage interviewer in the employee selection process and may be used to guide and enhance the effectiveness of follow-up personal interviews to ensure that applicants meet the specific needs for sensitive positions.

In 1991 the Federal Bureau of Prisons conducted a study on the effectiveness of the CEA interview as a possible selection tool for 39 staff positions, ranging from maintenance to administration. In this study 171 applicants participated, one third of which were administered the CEA prior to a personal, face-to-face, interview. The results indicated that the CEA interview identified high-risk applicants equal to the personal interview, and that the quality of information generated by the CEA interview in areas of inquiry common to both procedures was superior, particularly with respect to illegal drug activity and employment history. The findings suggested that the CEA interview could improve the consistency of the selection process, reduce screening costs and time, assist the staff on any subsequent interviews or investigations, and reduce interviewer fatigue.

In 2002 a new study involving 566 individuals was conducted by a U. S. federal agency, whose responsibilities include protecting materials and facilities critical to the nation's nuclear defense program. This agency was frustrated with the high cost and lengthy wait for the completion of Background Investigations before federal contractors could be cleared for access to their nuclear facilities. This federal agency was testing the CEA to determine if it was an effective process to identify those individuals who had engaged in high risk behavior that would preclude them from getting interim access pending the completed Background Investigation. 566 individuals completed the CEA and went through a complete Background Investigation.

The results were very impressive. As the report states, "Of all the cases reviewed, there were not any applicants that would have received interim access (i.e., successful completion of the CEA) who did not eventually receive Q access." Q access is equivalent to Top Secret Clearance, the government's highest level of clearance. Per this U. S. federal agency, "this data represents a 99% statistical validation against the NNSA clearance population of 40,000 clearances."

In 2006, one hundred consecutive police applicants were interviewed by the CEA as part of the selection process for a public law enforcement agency.

The vast majority of the 100 applicants completed the CEA after they had already completed most of the screening steps in the selection process, including for many the psychological assessment. In most cases this meant that they had already completed the:

Initial written job application
Written aptitude test
Written examination
Physical agility test
Oral Interview(s) by the panel (board)
Personal Background Interviews by Detective (Background Unit)
Personal History Questionnaire (39 + pages)
N.C.I.C and C.J.I.S. record checks
Credit Report
State, County, federal and local record checks
Driving Record Checks
Field Background Check
Drug test

None of the applicants in this study had completed the polygraph examination prior to the CEA.

Special Note: 25% of this group of applicants had current or prior law enforcement experience when they completed the CEA

Analysis of information from these 100 police applicant CEA interview reports compared to a set of federal agency hiring guidelines indicate the following:

OVERALL RESULTS from the information developed during the CEA interview

Met Hiring Guidelines 34 (34%)
Did Not Meet Guidelines 58 (58%)
Marginally Met Guidelines 8 ( 8%)

Click here for the details of the CEA interview for each of the 100 police applicants in this study.

Research is ongoing in that we constantly monitor job applicants who complete the CEA interview for their feedback and attitudes toward the CEA interview process.


CEA's Pre-employment Security Background Interview Program is available for use by your organization as per terms of a license agreement. Annual Software License Fee (Series 700) for Public Safety [Police and Fire Departments; Paramedics; Sheriff and Corrections; Federal Agencies, & Defense Contractors]

Annual fees for CEA's Pre-employment Background Interview for Public Safety/Law Enforcement Series 707 (recommended interview) and Series 705 include a seven-year and five-year work history and related integrity areas, respectively:

CEA Series 705 CEA Series 707
(5-year work history) (7-year work history)
Quantity Fee Per Interview Quantity Fee Per Interview
* Individually $125.00 * Individually $125.00
10 to 999 $65.00 10 to 999 $75.00
1,000 to 4,999 $60.00 1,000 to 4,999 $70.00
5,000 plus $55.00 5,000 plus $60.00

Annual Software License Fee (Series 600) for Private Sector [For use by Businesses, Industry, Local, City and Government Agencies]

Annual fees for CEA's Pre-employment Background Interview for Business Series 605 and Series 607 cover a five-year and seven-year work history and related integrity areas, respectively:

CEA Series 605 CEA Series 607
(5-year work history) (7-year work history)
Quantity Fee Per Interview Quantity Fee Per Interview
* Individually $115.00 * Individually $115.00
10 to 999 $60.00 10 to 999 $65.00
1,000 to 4,999 $55.00 1,000 to 4,999 $60.00
5,000 plus $50.00 5,000 plus $55.00

License Agreement available upon request. Fees (in US $) and other information subject to changes without notice.

Fees listed above are as of 2019-02-12

How to Order

To order CEA interviews or if you have any questions please call Richard Phannenstill at John E. Reid & Assoc. in Wisconsin at 414-281-2590 or send him an e-mail at: Our fax number is 1-414-281-2808.

Customer Satisfaction Guarantee

John E. Reid & Associates and CEA, Inc. stands behind its quality interviewing products. If, for any reason, you are not fully satisfied with your initial order, you may cancel your unused interviews and receive a refund on the unused interviews within 60 days of the initial order. The initial order is the first order placed with John E. Reid & Associates/ CEA, Inc. No refunds on any unused interviews after 60 days. No refunds apply to any custom or multiple orders. All subsequent interviews ordered are non-refundable. Some restrictions apply. Tax, if applicable, is added to all orders. Fees and other information are subject to change without notice.

The CEA Computer Interview Software Programs referred to herein and in the Software License Agreement is the CEA Pre-employment Security Background Interview System [security version (2.0)] minus any questions or sections deleted at the request of Licensee and any additional or optional interview areas or systems added by CEA, Inc. and /or added at Licensee's request. License fees are not reduced if a client opts not to use interview area or questions(s).

Thank you for your interest.

If any questions, please call Richard Phannenstill at CEA, Inc./John E. Reid & Assoc. in Wisconsin at 414-281-2590 or send him an e-mail at: