I was once asked a similar question "Tell me about a time when it all went wrong."
Okay, so I'll tell you about a time when it all went wrong. But you won't know the company, you won't know any of the people involved, you won't in the slightest be able to infer whether it was my fault, or whether "things went wrong" because of some greater dynamic. Besides, if you ask me, you'll only get my side of events, and this assumes I'm truthful.
I *want* to tell the interviewer to go fuck themselves because they're wasting my time. What I actually do is calmly take the middle of the road, have a little laugh, and be sure not to sound too badly affected by upsetting past experience or disappointments (as I'm sure we've all had).
It's a waste of time because it's a little game, and everyone plays by these rules. Consequently, the question isn't scientific in the slightest.
If you're worried about difficult personalities, bullshit artist, awkward egotists, communication deficiencies, or social interaction ability, then set up appropriate scenarios in your interview. If you're hiring programmers, Joel has been through all the details, Peopleware has been through all the details, the "Microsoft style" meet-some-of-the-people interview has been well documented.
My earlier response was largely emotional, I admit. Through my own inexperience in the past, I have fallen into a poor job at a 'rotten apple' company. The problem was basically: Experienced business partner leaves, key staff leave, inexperienced owner takes over and hires crap people, reasonable company goes down the pan.
As a result of my experience with this, I now place much weight on the content of the interview itself, since I consider this a direct reflection on the quality and ability of the people at the company itself.
Having an interviewer reel off a list of generic-HR www.monster.com
job interview questions simply doesn't cut it with me.