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Is "potential candidates" a tautology?

I am not sure whether the potential of succeeding candidacy is implied in the definition of candidacy.

Usage:

If there are many potential candidates who applied for the job, the interviewing process may take weeks.

Research:

The definition of "tautology" is loosely "the saying of the same thing twice over in different words". However, candidate seems to only loosely imply the potential of their candidacy. I wonder whether it is possible can have a potential-less candidate.

In my example, the candidate is definitely already a candidate. The potential applies to their chance of getting the job, which is the subject of their candidacy. So, is the use of "potential" redundant and tautological?

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    If the person described as a "potential candidate" is actually already a candidate, the speaker is using "potential" in a non-standard way. That makes it pretty hard to tell whether the word is redundant, or if it was meant to have some meaning that it doesn't typically have (e.g. having a high potential for success)
    – Juhasz
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 19:01

1 Answer 1

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A candidate is actively seeking a position. A potential candidate would be someone unsure of whether or not to actively seek a position. They are not the same.

In your example, however, context would be needed to determine if it is redundant.

For instance, if a committee has to review applicants for eligibility (such as verifying credentials) for a position before advancing the candidate to an interview (otherwise they are rejected), then sentence makes sense to refer to them as "potential candidates" because their candidacy is in question.

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  • Added some more context to my question for clarity :) Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 18:57
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    If they applied for the job, then they are a candidate and describing them as a "potential candidate" is incorrect (at least, incorrect with the limited context provided). If they are not sure whether or not to submit an application, then they are a "potential candidate" up until they decide to submit.
    – JRodge01
    Commented Oct 8, 2019 at 19:24
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    From the firm's POV an applicant might only be considered a candidate if it is verified they have the qualifications to do the job. You might look through a list of applicants and ask "Who here is a candidate?" It is ambiguous though.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Apr 12, 2022 at 11:28

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