Last year, my department submitted a request to run a job search this year. The fact that our request was denied means that there won’t be any posts about us on the Rumor Mill this year but it also gave me a bit of insight into the other side of a search. In part, our search was denied because we were not able to sufficiently demonstrate “need” in comparison to the other departments that were trying to argue for their own needs. In our case, we were trying to add somebody who could teach core courses (intro, methods, etc.) rather than trying to replace somebody who left us with a gaping hole in our curriculum (which is partially how I got hired). In the eyes of the administration, this made our search less pressing than those proposed by others, especially in tight economic times.
If we are eventually allowed to run a search in the future, I wonder how the justification that we use in arguing for our departmental needs will affect our ability to hire, or even interview, strong candidates who are not exactly in line with that need. While lots of candidates are told to apply broadly, this suggests that applying to small schools that are looking for areas of specialization that are not directly in line with their own may not be productive. Of course, this will remain conjecture until the powers that be allow us to conduct a search. Unless our needs change, it could be a while.