thinking-man.jpgI hate most interview questions, especially this one: “What is the one thing you’d change about yourself.”

I always want to say, “My decision to come here.”

But recently a good friend of mine told me about, what we both agreed could be, the ultimate interview question.

“What’s the difference between intelligence and wisdom?”

It’s a great question because it actually makes you think, and it probably will reveal a lot about how you think, if you are honest in answering it of course.

First off, let’s see what Merriam-Webster says:

1 a (1) : the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations : reason; also : the skilled use of reason (2) : the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one’s environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria (as tests) b Christian Science : the basic eternal quality of divine Mind c : mental acuteness : shrewdness
2 a : an intelligent entity; especially : angel b : intelligent minds or mind
3 : the act of understanding : comprehension
4 a : information, news b : information concerning an enemy or possible enemy or an area; also : an agency engaged in obtaining such information
5 : the ability to perform computer functions

1 a : accumulated philosophic or scientific learning : knowledge b : ability to discern inner qualities and relationships : insight c : good sense : judgment d : generally accepted belief
2 : a wise attitude, belief, or course of action
3 : the teachings of the ancient wise men

OK, that’s the definition, but what do real people think?

I decided to ask my Twitter buddies the question and I got an overwhelming response: (A couple of them spelled intelligence wrong, which must have been done on purpose to prove a point. Or maybe an appropriate Freudian slip.)

@CareerMarketer Inteligence is ability to learn and execute the knowledge. Wisdom is an impromtu act based on experience. Hope this makes sense.

@sdrecruiters Intelligence= learned wisdom= earned

@ActsofFaithblog Wisdom is knowing when to use other skills besides intelligence to best serve a situation.

@JonSherman121 wisdom is admitting you don’t know. Intelligence is learning from experience!

@BKramer Intelligence is measured with an IQ test, wisdom is gained through experiences

@ResumeStrategy Intelligence comes from acquired knowledge, wisdom come from acquired experience.

@Holly_Hanna Book smart versus life smart.

@willyf Intelligence is raw computing power. Wisdom is well written code.

OK, I have some pretty smart followers. But what would be the best answer in an interview?

I asked some recruiting experts what they thought would be the killer response, the one that would help land you the job.

First off, I got a response from a friend who does hiring for a major insurance company:

Interesting interview question - I personally wouldn’t ask such a question because I think it’s irrelevant for most jobs and situations. I focus on understanding what results someone has achieved, what behaviors they exhibit, what competencies are evident, etc. So as the job applicant if I was going to be a bit irreverent, I might respond “why does that matter?”. Obviously most applicants wouldn’t do that because they probably are interested in the job or they wouldn’t take the time for the interview.

What the interviewer is probably looking for is an answer around intelligence being how smart one is (be it IQ or academic knowledge) whereas wisdom is knowledge accumulated through experiences, learnings from past successes/failures, learning from others, putting theory into practice, etc.

Stephen Viscusi, author “Bulletproof Your Job” and founder of

I would answer like this—”Intelligence” can be measured in a test….”wisdom” comes from experience, regardless of age.

I think I am lucky, because I am smart, and have the experience that gives me the wisdom, to excel at this job. I hope you will hire me.”

Roberta Chinsky Matuson, president, Human Resource Solutions:

Intelligence is a reflection of how smart you are. Wisdom is based on what you’ve learned in your life.

Dennis McCarthy, president of Executive Staffing, Inc., a MRINetwork affiliate office in Palmetto Bay, FL:

Intelligence is the ability to understand facts. Wisdom is knowing how to use them.

Paul Paris, founder and CEO, Inc., and Recruiterreqs Employment Cafe:

Is this a trick question? :-) Intelligence to me is someone’s ability to learn and understand something. Where Wisdom is how you use good judgment putting the information to work for you once you have learned it.

David Perry, co-founder of Guerrilla Job Search and author of “Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0”:


That last one was my favorite, and the gal or guy that says that either gets the job or gets escorted to the door fast.

What would be your answer?

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