Applicant vs. Candidate

What's the Difference?

Applicant and candidate are two terms commonly used in the context of job applications and recruitment processes. An applicant refers to an individual who has expressed interest in a particular job position by submitting an application. They may or may not possess the necessary qualifications or experience required for the role. On the other hand, a candidate is an applicant who has progressed further in the selection process and is being considered for the job. Candidates are typically shortlisted based on their qualifications, skills, and experience, and are often invited for interviews or assessments to determine their suitability for the position. In summary, while an applicant is anyone who applies for a job, a candidate is a more specific term used to describe individuals who have advanced in the hiring process.


EducationHigh school diplomaBachelor's degree
ExperienceEntry-levelRelevant work experience
SkillsBasic skillsSpecialized skills
QualificationsMeet minimum requirementsMeet desired qualifications
InterviewMay or may not have been interviewedUsually interviewed
ReferencesMay or may not have provided referencesUsually provide references
SelectionNot yet selectedSelected for further consideration

Further Detail


When it comes to job applications and recruitment processes, two terms that are often used interchangeably are "applicant" and "candidate." While they may seem similar, there are distinct differences between the two. In this article, we will explore the attributes of applicants and candidates, highlighting their unique characteristics and the stages they represent in the hiring process.


An applicant is an individual who expresses interest in a job position by submitting an application. At this stage, the applicant is typically in the early phase of the recruitment process. They may have come across a job posting, either through online platforms, job boards, or referrals, and have decided to apply. The attributes of an applicant include:

  • Interest: Applicants demonstrate their interest in a particular job by taking the initiative to apply. They have identified the position as a potential fit for their skills and qualifications.
  • Basic Qualifications: Applicants typically possess the basic qualifications required for the job, such as relevant education, experience, or certifications. These qualifications are often outlined in the job description.
  • Application Materials: Applicants provide the necessary documents, such as resumes, cover letters, and application forms, to showcase their qualifications and convince the employer of their suitability for the role.
  • Initial Screening: Once an applicant submits their application, they may go through an initial screening process, where the employer reviews their materials to determine if they meet the minimum requirements for the position.
  • General Interest: Applicants may be exploring multiple job opportunities simultaneously and may not have a specific preference for a particular company or role at this stage.


A candidate, on the other hand, is an individual who has progressed further in the hiring process and is being considered for a specific job opening. Candidates have successfully passed the initial screening and have demonstrated potential to meet the requirements of the role. The attributes of a candidate include:

  • Relevant Experience: Candidates possess the necessary experience and skills that align with the job requirements. They have demonstrated their ability to perform the tasks and responsibilities associated with the position.
  • Interviews: Candidates are often invited for interviews, which may include phone screenings, video interviews, or in-person meetings. These interviews allow the employer to assess the candidate's qualifications, cultural fit, and potential for success in the role.
  • References: Employers may request references from candidates to gain insights into their past performance and work ethic. Positive references can strengthen a candidate's chances of being selected for the position.
  • Specific Interest: Candidates have a genuine interest in the company and the role they are being considered for. They have researched the organization, its values, and its mission, and can articulate why they are a good fit.
  • Final Selection: Candidates who successfully navigate the interview process and meet the employer's criteria may be selected as the final candidate for the job. This stage often involves negotiating job offers, discussing compensation, and finalizing employment details.


While applicants and candidates are both individuals seeking employment, their attributes and positions in the hiring process differ significantly. Applicants are at the initial stage, expressing interest and providing basic qualifications, while candidates have progressed further, demonstrating relevant experience, participating in interviews, and showcasing their specific interest in the role and company. Understanding these distinctions can help both employers and job seekers navigate the recruitment process more effectively.

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