During their tenure in office, the Liberal government has set out to expand the armed forces. This includes recruiting nearly 31,000 new Regular Force members with goals of growing representation of minority groups, Indigenous Peoples and women. It appears that social media campaigns are quickly becoming the ‘go to’ tool in realizing these objectives. The recruitment challenge is being met with a diverse online social presence.


Former auditor general Michael Fergusson, warned in 2016, of a significant shortage of men and women in uniform. In the 2015–16 fiscal year, almost one quarter of occupations had attrition rates higher than 10 percent.[i] The Canadian Forces have been increasing its social media recruitment campaigns to address this shortfall of personnel. The framework includes initiatives designed to address long-term equity goals, visible minorities, women, Indigenous Peoples, those in critical occupations, and interested in joining the Reserve Force.[ii]


As more Canadian participate online, social media networks have become a place of civic engagement and social mobilization. The CAF has not ignored the trend of an enlarging non-mainstream media and is investing resources in E-recruitment. After all, 84 per cent of online Canadian adults report having a Facebook account. This makes it the most widely adopted platform in Canada.[iii]


Currently, the Canadian government has 768 social media channels and the CAF is attempting to position itself as an “Employer of Choice.’[iv] The theme, ‘the Canadian Armed Forces in now Hiring’ aims to highlight the diversity of opportunities. As the advertisement notes, “the many career options in the Canadian Armed Forces will leave you uniquely positioned to excel at any job, no matter where your career path leads you.” E-recruitment incentives focus on paid education and part time jobs.[v]


Canada is not an exception; other countries are finding it equally difficult to meet annual recruit goals. Other armed forces are moving from a broadcast to a network environment, and away from one-way to interactive communication methods.


The armed forces in United Kingdom (UK) and Australia have tackled hiring future soldiers increasingly by using social media platforms to connect with otherwise hard to reach target groups. For instance, the UK uses LinkedIn as a primary social media tool because candidates perceive it as a professional networking tool.[vi] British officials are dropping a “one-size-fits-all strategy for finding talent,” and using social media to target specific skill sets.


The Australian Defence Force is also rebranding its online image to increase the likelihood of their brand getting seen by the right people, with the objective to reach more recruits.  The Australians introduced ‘Pathway to Change: Evolving Defence Culture’ at the end of 2017, which focusses on challenging the traditional image of the stoic, camouflaged soldier.


Instead, the Australians hope to attract people with normal 9 to 5 office jobs. The Australian Defence Force stills needs recruits in traditional positions, but underlines the need for diversified professionals. Implementing the Pathway to Change’s main recommendations will result in a shift towards a new cultural approach of recruitment communications, along with a strong online marketing component.


The CAF are well under way in changing their brand awareness and reaching more people to think about the possibilities the armed forces has to offer, including a variety of positive roles. A significant portion of video testimonials on the main website are designed to appeal to professionals in fields like law, IT, healthcare engineering. Moreover, there is a heavy emphasis on the possibility of specialized career opportunities, including full- and part-time options.


In spite of approaching new groups with digital tools and social media, recruitment targets are still not being met.  Representation of women has increased from 11.4 percent in 2001, to 15.3 percent in 2018, but hasn’t seen the promised 1 percent growth, per year mark. Visible minority inclusion rates have grown to 8.2 percent but misses its 11.8 percent goal and Indigenous Peoples representation is at 2.8 percent, short of its 3.5 percent objective. With attrition rates becoming more of a concern, recruitment through social media efforts will need to be intensified.


The world of defence has demonstrated that social media can be used as highly effective tools to deliver its messages with a new approach. It allows to reach a broader audience and target advertisements at specific demographics that appeal to specific shortages in personnel. Social media represents the future of recruitment as it allows recruiters to look into the online profile their target audiences to tailor specific skills search and create unique advertisements.



Tamara Spitzer is an intern at the CDA Institute and a Masters student at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs.



*Image courtesy of the Canadian Forces

“Canada’s Armed Forces, Struggling to Hit Diversity Goals, Turns to New Digital Recruiting Tools – National | Globalnews.Ca,” September 14, 2018. https://globalnews.ca/news/4450927/canada-armed-forces-diversity-goals-digital-recruiting/.

Defence, National, and National Defence. “Canadian Armed Forces Is Hiring.” Navigation page. aem, June 7, 2017. https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/campaigns/in-demand-jobs.html?utm_medium=google&utm_source=cpc&utm_campaign=GC/DND-MDN%20-%20ADV%201819-0020-IT-02%20-%20Recruitment%20Campaign%20-%202018-2019%20-%20Search&utm_term=join%20military&utm_content=270402396844.

“Detailed Action Plan for OAG Report Recommendations,” 2016, 12.

Government of Canada, National Defence. “Backgrounder | Canadian Forces Recruiting Group (CFRG),” May 9, 2007. http://www.forces.gc.ca/en/news/article.page?doc=canadian-forces-recruiting-group-cfrg/hnps1twz.

———. “Backgrounder | Changes to CF Recruiting,” March 23, 2001. http://www.forces.gc.ca/en/news/article.page?doc=changes-to-cf-recruiting/hnmx19p2.

———. “Mobile Applications | National Defence | Canadian Armed Forces,” July 6, 2017. http://www.forces.gc.ca/en/stay-connected/mobile-apps.page.

Government of Canada, Office of the Auditor General of Canada. “Canadian Armed Forces Recruitment and Retention—National Defence,” May 3, 2017. http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/osh_20170503_e_42206.html.

Gruzd, Anatoliy, Jenna Jacobson, Philip Mai, and Elizabeth Dubois. “The State of Social Media in Canada 2017.” Scholars Portal Dataverse, 2018. https://doi.org/10.5683/SP/AL8Z6R.

NATO. “Defence Expenditure of NATO Countries (2011-2018).” NATO. Accessed February 3, 2019. http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_156770.htm.

“Using Social Media in Recruitment.” Accessed February 5, 2019. https://www.ctp.org.uk/resettlement-guide-article/using-social-media-in-417933.


[i] Government of Canada, “Canadian Armed Forces Recruitment and Retention—National Defence.”

[ii] Government of Canada, “Backgrounder | Canadian Forces Recruiting Group (CFRG)”; Government of Canada; Government of Canada, “Backgrounder | Changes to CF Recruiting”; “Canada’s Armed Forces, Struggling to Hit Diversity Goals, Turns to New Digital Recruiting Tools – National | Globalnews.Ca”; Government of Canada, “Canadian Armed Forces Recruitment and Retention—National Defence”; NATO, “Defence Expenditure of NATO Countries (2011-2018)”; “Detailed Action Plan for OAG Report Recommendations”; Government of Canada, “Mobile Applications | National Defence | Canadian Armed Forces.”

[iii] Gruzd et al., “The State of Social Media in Canada 2017.”

[iv] Government of Canada, “Backgrounder | Canadian Forces Recruiting Group (CFRG).”

[v] Defence and Defence, “Canadian Armed Forces Is Hiring.”

[vi] “Using Social Media in Recruitment.”

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