The Difference Between Applicants and Candidates

by Sharlyn Lauby on April 7, 2011

Sometimes I see the most interesting conversations on Twitter.  Like this one.  A group was discussing the difference between applicants and candidates.

I must say that I have a tendency to use the words interchangeably.  Even though, when I really think about it, there’s a difference.  I believe applicants are the people who apply for jobs.  Candidates are the ones who are chosen to get an interview.

That being said, I also feel companies have an obligation to both – applicants and candidates.  The question becomes should the obligation be applicants, interview, recruitingthe same?  Should applicants be treated the same as candidates?  Or once you become a candidate should the expectation change (and, I assume, become greater)?

On one hand, both applicants and candidates are potentially past, current or future customers.  So I’d like to think this is important and merits giving everyone a certain level of attention.  On the other hand, for candidates you actually see and talk to…this should create some sort of relationship (albeit a short one) that deserves more.

Tell me.  I’m interested in your thoughts on this one.

  • Should applicants and candidates receive the same level of service?
  • As a manager, is it acceptable to treat applicants and candidates differently?
  • If you were a candidate, would you expect the same response an applicant gets…or something better?

Thanks for sharing your opinions on this one.  Anyone who leaves a comment by Sunday, April 10 will be entered into a drawing for the book, Who: The A Method for Hiring by Geoff Smart and Randy Street.  And if you don’t have any thoughts about candidates and applicants but want to be entered into the book raffle…no worries, just say so and you’re in.

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