What is a candidate?


A candidate is a person who is being considered for a position such as a politician in an election, a student in an exam or an applicant for a job. 

A candidate is someone who has put themselves forward or has been nominated or identified as a suitable person for a position or task.

In the recruitment world, a candidate is defined as someone either actively looking for a job or passively interested in switching positions. This means that they have either gone through the application and screening process and are now being seriously considered by the hirer as a suitable person for the vacancy, or they have yet to go through the process but are a person of interest given their skills and experience, and therefore may be encouraged to apply.

Candidates will be formally interviewed and assessed by the hiring team or firm alongside other candidates who have been screened and fit the job criteria. If they are successful, they will become an employee rather than a candidate. However, those who are not successful will continue as potential candidates for other roles within the organisation or for similar roles elsewhere.

History of candidates

The term candidate comes from the Latin word ‘candidatus’, which means ‘one aspiring to office’.

Up until the 1970s, recruiters worked directly with candidates. Since then, however, the recruitment sector has been largely dominated by a more client-led model. Recruiters now approach and find candidates on clients’ behalf to inform them of their vacancies and needs.

The switch to a client-led model was driven by employers realising the benefits of outsourcing the hiring process to expert recruitment firms, high unemployment rates (and therefore large amounts of available candidates to select from) and advancements in technology that made hiring more efficient.

Recent trends in candidates

As industries grappled with lockdowns and economic uncertainties during the Covid-19 pandemic, the job market experienced significant changes. Many people faced job losses or furloughs, while others in sectors like healthcare, e-commerce and technology saw increased demand for their skills. This reshaping of employment opportunities led many candidates to re-evaluate their career paths and prioritise job security and stability.

In doing so, many chose to participate in the Great Resignation, voluntarily leaving their jobs or resigning from the workforce in pursuit of better benefits or higher compensation. This hastened the return of a candidate-driven market, where employers were forced to compete for employees.

Remote work became a prevalent feature of this new normal, prompting candidates to expect more flexible work arrangements and a work-life balance or blend that suited their needs. As remote work blurred the lines between personal and professional lives, candidates also began to seek out employers with a positive employer brand and employer value proposition that demonstrated a commitment to employee wellbeing and mental health support.

The pandemic also catalysed the digitalisation of the job searching process. Virtual job fairs, video interviews and online networking events became the norm, allowing candidates to connect with potential employers across geographical boundaries.

Amid lockdowns, many candidates seized the opportunity to upskill and reskill, recognising the need to remain competitive in a rapidly evolving job market. However, job search efforts were not without challenges. Many companies froze hiring or delayed recruitment during the initial stages of the pandemic, leading to uncertainty and disrupted plans for job seekers.

Overall, the pandemic fundamentally changed how candidates approached job searching, evaluated opportunities and interacted with potential employers, prompting both candidates and organisations to adapt to these transformative changes. As to whether these changes are temporary or permanent, only time will tell.

Advantages of candidates

Candidates, as potential employees, offer several valuable advantages to companies:

  • Candidates bring their skills, knowledge and expertise to the organisation, contributing to the overall capabilities and effectiveness of the workforce.
  • New candidates often bring fresh ideas and innovative perspectives that can help a company adapt to changing markets and find new ways to solve challenges.
  • Hiring the right candidates with relevant skills can lead to higher productivity levels within the company, contributing to overall growth and success.
  • Candidates with specific skill sets can help fill skill gaps within the organisation, enabling the company to take on new projects and opportunities.
  • Strong candidate relationship management can lead to strong and loyal long-term relationships.

Disadvantages of candidates

  • Candidates who are not well-matched with the company's culture, values or job requirements can lead to poor job performance, decreased morale and potentially high turnover rates.
  • The selection process can be time-consuming, leading to delays in filling vacant positions and impacting productivity in the short term.