|Activity||The work of seeking out and training missionary candidates was the responsibility of the Secretary from the beginning of the Society. During Henry Venn's secretaryship one of his fellow-Secretaries was given the primary responsibility, but after Venn's retirement in 1872 the task reverted to the Honorary Clerical Secretary [from 1922 called General Secretary]. In 1891, however, pressure of work led to the appointment of an Assistant Clerical Secretary, whose sole job was to work with prospective candidates. In 1897 this Assistant, Rev[erend] D. H. D. Wilkinson, was made a full Secretary of the Society and the Candidates Department was formed. The General Secretary, however, continued to consider himself the Chief Candidates Secretary until the major reorganisation of the Secretary's headquarters' administration in 1982.|
The Department's task was to correspond with, and be responsible for, prospective missionaries from the time of their first application until their departure to their work. The Secretary was also responsible for corresponding with the five Colonial Church Missionary Associations, whose candidates from the 1890s until about the 1920s, had to be approved by CMS London before being accepted. They also corresponded similarly with the West Indies Church Missionary Council, which negotiated the employment of West Indian agents in West Africa.
At first the Department was considered part of the Honorary Clerical Secretary's responsibility , but in 1914 it was proposed that for administrative purposes it should be a branch of the Foreign Department (Africa and Asia). In practice it appears to have retained independence while being very closely linked with both the Foreign Department and the General Secretary's Department.
When the Society moved its headquarters in 1966 the Candidates Department was placed with the General Secretary's Department. A review of headquarters organisation quickly followed and in 1968 a new Personnel Division was set up of which the Candidates department formed the major part, but which also included the Conditions of Service Department, the Library and Archives.