A client calls me and says, "For the past three years our administrative staffing was pretty easy. We'd just hire people to temp. If we liked them we'd hired them." I asked him, "If that's working for you, why change it now?" He told me, "Well, as the economy keeps improving, we're getting a smaller and smaller number of great candidates that way. I just can't count on it any more."
That's the problem with recruiting--once you latch on to something that works well for you, it eventually peters out. Nothing works forever.
Hiring administrative staff on a "temp to Hire" basis works well during recessions, until the pool of talent who is willing to temp starts to dry up. At any given time, only a small percentage of the workforce is willing to temp, but in a city like Washington, that pool can include some really terrific people. When the economy heats up, many of the best temps get hired full-time. When the best people get hired more quickly, the average person in the temp pool becomes, well ... more average. The stars are fewer and further between. So using temp to hire as a recruiting strategy becomes dramatically less productive.
Over the past ten years I've seen several job boards work really well ... until they simply stopped working. They did not succeed or fail all at once. Each one spiraled up, did well for a while, and then became nearly useless six months later. (It's a good reason to beware of annual contracts with job boards).
An employee referral network can work really well ... until it stops working. Only a handful of employees typically provide the majority of the referrals, and once their network of friends is tapped out, the referrals dry up.
It is said you cannot step into the same river twice--the river is always changing. In large metropolitan areas, the job market is the same way. You are no more able to predict what recruiting tactics will work for you than you are able to predict how much traffic you will see on your commute.
Sometimes the law of supply and demand works for you, sometimes against you. You might run the same job ad on the same job board in January, March, June and October and receive a completely different number and quality of candidates.
Sometimes your recruiting tactics have simply run their course. Maybe you advertised in print ads long after the best candidates went online, or maybe you advertised using online job boards when the best candidates went into social media. Or maybe you tried advertising on the latest, coolest, most modern thing, but you got there before the great candidates did.
Or maybe you used the wrong tactic entirely. Maybe your ideal candidate is not going to respond to any kind of advertising, no matter where you put it.
But when your recruiting tactics are not working, you never really know why. So, all you can do is keep experimenting, keep trying new approaches, and keep monitoring your results, knowing that nothing good lasts forever.