How to Handle Chronological In-Depth Structured (CIDS) Job Interviews


What Is a Chronological In-Depth Structured (CIDS) Interview?

CIDS is an interview style that focuses on “top grading.”

Developed by consultant, Brad Smart of, it involves focused questions covering 50 competencies in six categories, which include: intellectual, personal, interpersonal, management, leadership, and motivational.

In his book, Topgrading, Smart states that any size organization can use topgrading to weed out underachievers and focus on “A” players. By avoiding the often-used bird shot technique of scattering divergent questions, interviewers instead, “probe the patterns of how this person developed competencies throughout his career.”

The CIDS interview approach is significantly tedious. As a job seeker, you must be prepared to answer numerous questions about every job you have ever had coupled with extensive background checking. The process can take on average as long as six months per employee.

How to Handle CIDS Job Interview Questions

It is a good idea for you to familiarize yourself with the CIDS methodology, preparing yourself not only for CIDS, but for the commonly used exploratory interview as well. This will allow you to prepare for common pitfalls and to craft stronger answers.

You should prepare yourself by exploring every facet of your life up to that point, emphasizing strengths, weaknesses, job expectations, and job contributions throughout your career. Hundreds of questions will begin very early during the education days and will cover every job, every success, and every failure.

You should also be prepared to talk about all of your bosses over the years. Plus, you should be aware that every former boss is contacted during this process. Therefore, it is important that what you say, while being as upbeat and positive as possible, is truthful as well.

A common question to expect in a topgrading interview is, “If I were to ask you to arrange an interview with your former boss, what would he or she say were your strengths, weaknesses, and overall performance?”

Helpful tips on evaluating if a job seeker will make the grade in a topgrading analysis, according to the article, “The Smart Way to Hire Superstars” article by Hank Gilman and Lori Iaonnou, in Fortune Small Business:

“A players are the top 10% of talent available at going rates for a particular position in an industry niche. Such people are the best of class. Some are visionaries, others are great team leaders and salesmen–it depends on the job. For instance, an A player controller has a different skills set than a VP of marketing. All have rock-solid integrity. B players are those that fall in the next 25%, and C players are below that. “

Bottom Line on CIDS Interviews

In a poll conducted by Career Directors International as a part of their annual Career Industry Expert Trends, 20% of surveyed human resource professionals worldwide stated that they had used or planned to use this type of interview. To learn more about CIDS visit Therefore, chances are not great that you will experience a CIDS interview, but, if you prepare for the worst you will shine in a traditional interview venue as well!

Laura Decarlo
About the author…

Laura DeCarlo is recognized as the career industry’s ‘career hero’ making a difference to both job seekers and career professionals as the founder of Career Directors International. She possesses 11
top-level certifications in resume writing, career coaching, and career management; 7 first place resume and job placement awards; and has written three books on interviewing and job search including Interview Pocket RX, Interviewing: The Gold Standard, Resumes for Dummies,and Job Search Bloopers. Follow Laura on Twitter at @careerhero.

More about this author

Don't forget to share this article with friends!