Lowered Recruiting Standards

An organization that has always had strict standards about who is allowed in their ranks has suddenly decided become more lenient about who it recruits.

The most frequent reason for this change of policy is a need for more members. If the organization is combating some rival group or other force, then extra numbers, even as Cannon Fodder, become extremely valuable.

This change in policy is also most frequently how our main character becomes a member of said group when before that the best they could have hoped for was to fanboy from afar. This decision is also often a cause of friction between the those who support the new arrangement and the Old Guard who resent the "riffraff" coming into their midst.

This trope is specific to when an organization changes to rules to allow more people to join, as opposed to situations for the elite organization making a special exception for an especially talented individual who otherwise wouldn't have been able to join.

As anyone in, well any Armed Forces can tell you, this is certainly Truth in Television.


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     Anime & Manga 
  • In The World God Only Knows lack of numbers is the reason that a third class devil like Elsie gets trained and sent to Earth to capture loose spirits; a job previously reserved for the best of the best. To elaborate, there was massive numbers of runaway spirits that escaped hell realm and invading human realm 10 years prior. To counter this, the hell realm government recruits as many as possible.
  • In Area 88, the Asran foreign legion is desperate for fighting men, so it tends to overlook flaws in potential mercenaries, such as inexperience, criminal backgrounds, or psychopathology. They're not too concerned about lack of consent (in Shin's case) or age (in Kim's case) either.
  • In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig Batou considers lowering Section 9's recruitment standards when it looks like they might be drastically outnumbered.

  • This trope is the premise behind the original Police Academy movie. The mayor instituted the policy, and a resentful chief of police cooks up a plan to make the new cadets so miserable they quit.
  • In The Bourne Legacy, a character reveals that his IQ score was raised 12 points by a recruiter so the recruiter could make his quota.

  • Monstrous Regiment, by virtue of the fact that there was hardly anybody left to recruit by the time of the story.
  • Happens in Under the Dome by Stephen King. After the town is cut-off from the outside world via Some Kind of Force Field, the town's leaders make the decision to deputize some young adults in order to beef up the police force. These young adults? The town selectman's sociopathic son and his delinquent friends.
  • In Chaos Squad, children as young as eight are shown serving as defense forces to protect Earth following the first half of an alien war.
  • The Manticorian Navy in Honor Harrington has been quietly lowering its standards with regards to re-enlistees in preparation for the war with Haven, resulting in troublemakers like Randy Steilman being kept in the service.
  • Harry Potter:
    • In the series, Harry is accepted in the advanced Potions class because the new teacher has lower standards than Snape's. Unlike most examples on this page, however, it's implied Snape's admittance requirements were too high (demanding the Wizarding equivalent of an A on the exam, while the replacement also allowed those with the B grade equivalent). Snape was also unable to apply this requirement to his new class, as this would have left him teaching a one-student class (a student by the name of Harry Potter...).
    • Aurors (wizard SWAT teams) need high grades in every core subject at Hogwarts. After Voldemort's defeat, the job is open to anyone who participated in the Battle of Hogwarts (which involved fighting murderous Dark wizards twice their age and experience), which is how students got in who would otherwise never have made it (such as Neville Longbottom, Ron Weasley, and Harry Potter).
  • Harry Dresden, title character of The Dresden Files is recruited into the Wardens and made regional commander for the central United States due to their shorthandedness during the vampire war.
  • In The Helmsman Saga, before the First Galactic War, only nobles were accepted into the Helmsman Academy. The protagonist is from the first batch of commoners to be allowed in due to the combat losses.
  • In The Wheel of Time, the Aes Sedai (magic-user) policy of only admitting young girls as trainees is relaxed a little to admit the prodigy Nynaeve, and then abandoned altogether (along with restrictions on minimum magical strength) after Egwene becomes the Amyrlin Seat.
  • In Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series, Sam Yeager is a player for a Triple-I League Baseball team. During the Great War, he tried to join the Army but was rejected on the basis of having lost all his teeth during the Spanish Flu. After the Race attacks the US (and many other nations), the Army quickly lowers its standards and starts accepting anyone who's willing to fight. Sam and his manager "Mutt" Daniels (who would normally be too old to fight) join up.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe: The Empire began supplementing its clone army with recruits, a development which drew criticism from the clones. As this policy eventually gave us the Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy, the clones probably had a point.
  • Mentioned in All Quiet on the Western Front: towards the end of the war, younger and younger recruits are being sent to the front with even less training than the protagonists' group received. They comment that they seem so much older now than those kids.
  • In The Stormlight Archive, the war against the Parshendi has been a sufficient drain on the humans' manpower that ten-year old boys are being conscripted. Or at least, that's the excuse. The truth is that a lighteyed noble wanted revenge against a darkeyed surgeon, and found a loophole in the conscription laws, so he got his cousin Highmarshal Amaram to recruit the least useful of the surgeon's sons.
    Amaram: Lighteyed boys are recruited as early as eight or nine.
    Lirin: For officer training! Not frontline soldiers!
  • The title character of Biggles was a beneficiary (and/or victim) of this trope in the chronologically second-earliest book in the series. Not only does he get into flight school by lying about his age, albeit only by eight months, but a chapter or so later he's getting his pilot's wings and a hasty posting to 266 Squadron in France despite having less than half the required hours in the air. He survives through raw talent and sheer dumb luck for long enough to learn on the job; many other pilots don't.
  • Andersonville: Andersonville POW Camp is hastily constructed to hold Union prisoners at a time when the Confederacy is running out of men. Andersonville commandant Henry Wirz is not happy that his command consists of halfwits and rejects, the elderly and teenaged boys. For that matter Wirz himself got the command because he is unfit for combat after suffering his wound at Seven Pines.

     Live Action TV 
  • All in the Family: Archie's lodge is in trouble for not having any black or Jewish members. So he suggests that they invite one black to join - Solomon Jackson. And one Jew - also Solomon Jackson. At the end of the episode Jackson accepts their invitation to join, and promises to invite all his black friends and all his Jewish friends to join too.
  • M*A*S*H - With the draft on, you get doctors who are against the very war that's being fought. It was a recurring theme that the vast majority of the US Army (being draftees), were unprepared, unfit, and generally had no business being in a warzone.
  • The 100 - By Season 2, the Ark has lost so much of its population, and is facing such an overwhelming threat from the Grounders, that even Murphy, a known murderer, is allowed to help with their defense. Murphy is well aware that, if he's being trusted with a weapon, then they "really are screwed".
  • Orange Is the New Black: In Season 3, the prison hires more guards to deal with the workload. However, it's clear from the start that they aren't qualified to work there. In the finale, it's revealed that one of them is actually a hit man who works for the drug lord that Alex smuggled for. He even says that the place would hire Forrest Gump.

     Professional Wrestling 
  • From professional wrestling, you have the nWo (New World Order) of the WCW. This was one of the things that soured the storyline, causing the eventual implosion of the WCW.

     Tabletop Games 
  • In Twilight: 2000 by the time the game starts in 2000 all the armies in Europe have been taking anyone they can get for years: draftees, left-overs from destroyed allied units, deserters from the other side, even locals.
  • Warhammer 40,000
    • For the most part averted where manpower is the Imperium's greatest weapon (one general regularly wins battles by sending wave after wave of infantry without armored support against fortresses or through minefields) and they'll let anyone join/get shanghaied. Though on some planets like Cadia and Catachan everyone is a Badass Normal just for surviving to adulthood, and anyone who doesn't shape up fast enough can generally look forward to meeting the Commissar and being sent to a Penal Legion.
    • Thoroughly subverted for the Space Marines: their recruitment standards are so stringent they consider four possible candidates from a single planet to be an exceptionally good run. Of course, they have to be, as many won't even survive the horrific surgeries required to turn them into Astartes.

     Video Games 
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic:
    • In the Sith Warrior storyline, your initial mentor comments that this policy was recently put into practice within the Sith Academy, due to the heavy losses of the war. In an inversion, your character is one of the elite who is there legitimately (sort of—in a sort-of ironic inversion, your mentor gives you special treatment while trying to prove his point about the lowered standards), while The Rival is one whose presence owes itself to the Lowered Standards.
    • The Sith Inquisitor Player Character is also one of the Lowered Standards, as your Overseer and rival constantly point out, but doesn't stay that way for long.
  • Happens in some of the StarCraft novels. A lot of terran recruits are convincts, so the methods used involve arresting people for flimsy reasons, as well. In at least one case, people were outright kidnapped from colonies, using the brainwashing meant to keep the more violent convicts under control to instead tell them a fake story.
  • Going by the backstories of the XCOM soldiers from XCOM2, this clearly happened between XCOM: Enemy Unknown where soldiers recruited by the titular Extraterrestrial Combat Unit actually were trained soldiers fighting an Alien Invasion, while in the later game XCOM is basically La Résistance against a Vichy Earth and the requirements to qualify for XCOM duty are "Do you hate the alien overlords?" and "can you hold a rifle somewhat straight?".

     Web Original 
  • The SCP Foundation normally recruits its D-class personnel (human test subjects) from death row criminals, and terminates the survivors at the end of the month. In times of need, they start grabbing from lesser criminals, and sometimes escalates to just grabbing civilians and using amnesics on them. Their plans for world-wide apocalypse have several levels, with only the last one planning for the release of superviolent and/or insane criminals if it comes down to there being any human beings left at all.

     Western Animation 
  • Justice League does it, when they go Unlimited, resulting in the recruitment of oddballs who have to be expelled later, like the Huntress.
  • On The Simpsons, NASA decides to let an average person be an astronaut to better its image, which is how Homer ends up on the space shuttle.
  • Family Guy's Peter Griffin is named president of a cigarette company for the same reason.
  • A segment on Robot Chicken (released before the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell) is a Navy recruitment ad targetting gay men and promising "Now we're more don't ask than ever before!"
  • In the South Park episode "Best Friends Forever" Kenny dies and ascends to Heaven in order to command Heaven's army against the forces of Hell. He is told by the angels that they used to only let Mormons into Heaven, but they started to let others in order to increase their army's size.
  • In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) episode "Pulverizer Returns", it is revealed that the Foot Clan has invoked this trope, due to many of the former members quitting after losing to the turtles so often.

     Real Life 


  • Conscription in general has this effect on armies. The army is forced to accept many barely fit recruits who don't want to be in it either, and is cited as a contributing factor the infamous "Rape of Nanjing" during World War II, as a number of conscripts were of the "imprisoned or enlisted" variety.
    • This also happens in volunteer armies in times of war. The need for manpower increases due to attrition (read: people getting blown up) and the fact that it seems pre-war analysis of manpower requirements never seem to be close to actual obligations which occur during wartime. Therefore standards are either gradually lowered, this might be explicitly written down or implicitly by interpreting requirements loosely and by making what were supposed to be rarely granted waiviers and turning them in to something given as of routine. Eitherway the army swells in size
    • And when the war is over, standards rise back up and many of these individuals who came in find themselves being discharged, as the Command suddenly noticed that they did not after all fulfill the requirements.
  • The Austro-Hungarian Army (officer corps 76.1% German) was particularly badly affected by this in World War I, though the situation was still manageable while they were able to use the pre-war Army Reserve to plug the gaps (officer corps 56.8% German). Things only became truly critical when they ran out of these after repeated Italian and Russian offensives in 1916 and had to begin recruiting en masse from the country's civilian professionals (c.24% German).
  • During the Russian Civil War the Red Army was being routinely hammered by the Whites and all the revolutionary proletarian fervor in the world couldn't help them. Trotsky made the decision to recruit former Imperial Russian Army officers, despite the Communists' lumping them as members of the corrupt system they were trying to overthrow, and they managed to instill some professionalism and experience. Well, until a younger Stalin locked many of them in barges and sank them in the Volga River.
  • The Waffen SS during World War II. Initially membership was open to "Aryans" only in accordance with the racial policies of the Nazi state, but the rules were partially relaxed in 1940, and Adolf Hitler authorized the formation of units composed largely or solely of foreign volunteers and conscripts as the war went on. By the end of the war, non-Germans made up more than 50 percent of the Waffen SS.
    • The Germans had to depend on this more and more as the war turned against them. One of the first examples were the Luftwaffe Field Divisions, which essentially took auxiliary and non-essential air force personnel and pressed them into frontline service. Their battle prowess was about as good as you can expect. By 1944, anyone who was previously declared "medically unfit" was allowed to join the Wehrmacht. At the end of the war, the Volkssturm was the ultimate result of this. With the Wehrmacht essentially tapped for any reserves, the Nazis began to conscript anyone who wasn't already in uniform to fight against the Red Army. The majority of Volkssturm members were old men (many of whom were veterans of the First World War) and children from the Hitler Youth, who were far more fanatical than their older comrades.
  • Soviet Russia, Ukraine, and So On invoked this during the Soviet-German War. Entire categories of people who had been barred from combat-roles (socialist- and liberal-sympathisers, central Asians, petty criminals), or from military service (women) were suddenly conscripted, trained, and pressed into logistics and frontline roles. Upon the war's outbreak the Red Army had been entirely male, mostly Russian, and quite strictly Communist. Upon its end the Army was only 9/10 male, less than half-Russian, and embraced all flavours of the left-wing rainbow. This couldn't last, however, with the women and less orthodox members being quietly removed in post-war years.
  • In the War on Terror, the US Military's problems have been well documented. Whats not often appreciated is that this also happened with the other major militaries which have been in action, i.e the UK and the Pakistani armed forces have also had to lower standards. As of 2016 as the major troop commitments have wound down, all three have suddenly and ruthlessly reimposed exacting standards.
    • Incidentally, the reasons given for the shortage of troops has been since all three militaries expected to fight short and bloody wars against conventional opponents, meaning you would not have time to raise new troops during war and lots of time to replace losses afterwards. This did not translate well to the conditions of the War on Terror; a low level war lasting approximately forever.
    • The major non-UK, NATO allies most notably did not lower standards during the war and their armies did not grow. Whether this was to keep the quality of their armed force high (as they claimed) or whether that was an excuse not to increase size of their armies and avoid major responsibilities and therefore unpopular casualties, (as some US Military leaders insist) is not to be discussed here.
  • The "against" camp in the debate on whether or not to allow women into the combat branches of the US Military uses this trope as one of their primary arguments.
    • This happened when the US military was eager to swell its ranks during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Waivers became more common for people with non-violent criminal histories, overweight and out of shape recruits became more common, and accordingly reports of injuries to soldiers unaccustomed to the harsh lifestyle and crimes (petty and otherwise) skyrocketed.
  • One of the points proponents of allowing gay members of the United States military to serve had against those arguing that allowing gay troops would somehow lower unit morale or effect unit discipline was that when the United States desperately needed people in uniform in the past they tended to be less interested in their personal lives and overlook things no matter how transparent the closet was, and there was no discernible effect even if everyone around a gay soldier knew they were gay.


  • In Australia the university fees are capped by the government, but to help the universities make money they uncapped the number of admissions. As a result the ATAR (Australia's version of an SAT) scores needed for admission have steadily been getting lower to allow more students.
  • Jokingly mentioned by Dave Barry in regards to universities being so desperate for students they now accept people they wouldn't have allowed to work in the boiler room.