Military recruiting is the practice of enlisting people to serve in the armed forces. Although military service is compulsory in some countries, the Canadian tradition has been to maintain volunteer forces (for exceptions, see conscription). Added to that tradition are changes in society, the economy and the demands made of the military, placing considerable pressure on recruiting officers to find sufficient numbers of suitable, willing candidates. When unemployment is widespread, the simple prospect of having a job may persuade young men and women to enlist.
In wartime, strong appeals are made to patriotism, honour and the citizen's duty to serve. When the economy is strong, and with the trend among 17- to 24-year-olds to pursue higher levels of education than previous generations, competition for recruits in the private and public sectors increases. Military recruiters compete for applicants with universities and private industry by emphasizing that the trades training and education available in the armed forces are applicable to civilian employment once an individual's military service ends.
Each year, recruiting officers and civilians visit hundreds of high schools and universities across the country to attract the personnel required to keep the Canadian Forces up to their established strength. Between 1992 and 1997 government budget cutbacks forced the reduction of the size of the Canadian Forces. Recruiting efforts were reduced during that time, but after downsizing was complete the trend toward fewer applicants continued. As a result, the gap between recruiting and attrition has widened. Early in the 21st century, a time when the Canadian Forces are called upon to meet increased international challenges, the military finds it increasingly difficult to remain up to strength.