Candidate, aspirant, nominee, applicant denote one who seeks an office, honor, position, or award.
Candidate is applied not only to a seeker but to one who is put forward by others or is considered as a possibility by those whose function it is to make a choice. It implies therefore an examination of qualifications and is applicable wherever selection is dependent upon others’ judgment of one’s fitness.
Since the word often implies previous training or grooming for a position or honor, it is sometimes used more widely of a person whose career is such that he seems headed for a certain place or end.
Aspirant definitely implies that one seeks an office, honor, post, or promotion because of one’s own desire or decision; it therefore often connotes ambition or laudable efforts to improve one’s state or condition.
Nominee is applied to a candidate for office who has been chosen to represent a party or a faction in a coming election or who has been proposed as the appropriate person to fill a particular office.
Applicant is applied to one who definitely or formally submits himself as a possibility for a post or position. It is often used interchangeably with candidate when personal solicitation is implied in the latter, but unlike candidate, it conveys no suggestion of consideration by those who make the selection.