There are only three questions in a job interview, getting at strengths, motivation, and fit. See The Only Three Interview Questions, The New Leader's 100-Day Action Plan or the companion posts on motivation and fit.
Interviewing for Strengths
Interviewing for strengths is not a game. It's about figuring out if there is a match between the strengths required for success in the role and the candidate's strengths. Strengths are the key to how people get things done and have a big impact on people's ability to adjust to changes over time. If you accept that, then the advice for interviewers and interviewees are mirror images of each other.
Advice for Interviewers
Figure out what strengths you're looking for. Tell the interviewee what they are. Ask the interviewee for examples of behavior that evidences those strengths. (Using the Working Girl question to probe.)
Advice for Interviewees
Figure out what strengths the interviewer is looking for. Give him or her examples of behavior that evidences those strengths. Follow this link for more on acing your answers to interview questions.
STAR Behavioral Interviews
When I interview someone, I generally follow the same script, telling people:
I'm going to do a behavioral interview. I'm looking for evidence of strengths in what you've done in the past. I'll tell you the strength I'm looking for and ask you for an example. It's helpful if you use a STAR framework in your answer.
ST: Situation (Briefly – just enough to help me understand the context for your actions.)
A: Action (Elaborate here. What you did. Use the word "I.")
R: Result (Briefly – just enough to show me the value or impact of what you did.)
The questions aren't important. The answers are. So, if I ask a question that doesn't trigger a good example, let's skip that one and find another way to get examples of your strengths.
Gallup's Marcus Buckingham and Don Clifton provide an excellent definition of strengths in Now Discover Your Strengths (New York: Free Press, 2001).
Talent: Innate areas of potential strength (probably present at birth)
Knowledge: Things people are aware of, facts and lessons learned (through courses, mentors, reading, etc.)
Skills: How to-s, or steps of an activity (generally acquired through deliberate practice)
With that in mind, as an interviewer, make sure you understand the driving talent behind an individual's strength, how they acquired their knowledge of the subject and what they've done to practice the skill. Then you can be sure you've identified a real strength.
See Rich Boughram's review of his top 5 books for interview prep