There almost always seems to be an inverse correlation between annual spend on the HR Technology Conference and product innovation – the biggest booths and marketing blitzes invariably belong to the most boring brands.

Stuff like payroll or benefits services will never be sexy, but that doesn’t stop those software providers selling these suites from trying. Maybe I’m biased; I do admit outside of recruiting, HR Technology should come with a snooze button.

Reference checking and paperless onboarding, for instance, are admittedly pretty important parts of every employer’s hiring process, I suppose, but no technology or tool could ever make me (or anyone else in their right mind) give two shits about these problems in the first place, much less what “solutions” might exist out there on the market.

The back office is boring, and the legacy systems supporting them are kind of like the offensive linemen of HR Technology: people only notice them when they screw up. It’s the frontend systems and point solutions involved in talent attraction and candidate conversion, conversely, which sit under center.

Recruiters, like quarterbacks, are highly visible and the most critical players on their entire team, since it’s their job to drive the processes required to score the top talent you’re looking for. And there’s no play call in the talent playbook more imperative than choosing the right tool or technology.

With that in mind, I’m going to go ahead and bet that it’s unlikely that, say, Ceridian or ADP is going to roll out any game changing products or category killing SaaS solutions; similarly, Oracle and SAP will come equipped with completely new product marketing messaging, but the exact same products as every other year.

Talent management might be evolving, but thanks to these and other Tier One on-premise vendors, the pace of that change has proved glacial. This is why most enterprise HCM and ATS products look like they were coded in DOS and make about as are as technologically anachronistic as, say, carrier pigeons, fax machines or SuccessFactors.

There are, however, some exceptions to this rule of thumb, with a handful of established and entrenched players actually challenging conventions – and the status quo – and investing in evolving their offerings through continuous improvement and relentless innovation, building a product roadmap that aligns with candidate and recruiter needs instead of creating solutions for problems that don’t actually exist (see: video cover letters, gammification, etc). 

Big Brands, Big Ideas: The #HRTechConf Countdown Begins.

 Tomorrow we’ll reveal our Top 10 Talent Technologies for 2015, a list of some of the most exciting emerging technologies and startup solutions poised to disrupt the HR Technology market and the HR status quo that aren’t necessarily on every employer’s radar – yet. Today, however, we’ll start our countdown by looking at the five big brands in talent technology worth watching in 2015 (and beyond).

#15: Glassdoor for Employers. 

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It should come as no surprise our list starts with Glassdoor; while they’re our biggest client, we’ve been big believers in their product since well before we were getting paid to promote it.

Recently, Glassdoor has come up in pretty much every recruiting conversation we’ve been involved in; as LinkedIn’s star continues to fade, it appears as if it’s being replaced by Glassdoor as the “go-to” solution more and more employers are going to – and most are seeing pretty impressive results and recruiting ROI from their Glassdoor spend.

It’s hard to make an HR customer happy, but somehow Glassdoor has succeeded in overcoming the widespread perception that its reviews were only coming from disgruntled outliers and realizing that not only are the reviews on the site largely accurate, but also can dramatically help, not hurt, an employer’s talent acquisition efficacy.

As Glassdoor continues to build out its employer branding capabilities, it also looks poised to make a big move into big data; the analytics collected by Glassdoor could represent something of a Holy Grail when it comes to measuring both recruitment marketing and employer branding alike.

With a recent $90 million infusion from Google Capital, Glassdoor is flush with cash, and their recent expansion into EMEA and APAC markets signal a growing desire to build a global platform. No matter what Glassdoor ends up doing in the coming year, it’s going to be fun to watch (and probably pretty cool, too).

14. CareerBuilder1.

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We know what you’re thinking, and we know that it might seem a little strange including an old-fashioned major job board on a list of the most innovative players in HR Technology. But if you think you know CareerBuilder, think again.

From a smart string of acquisitions (including recruitment analytics and job distribution platform Broadbean to cutting edge semantic search provider TextKernel) to an increasingly robust suite of recruiting solutions, CareerBuilder has effectively repositioned itself from being just another job board into an end-to-end talent acquisition solution that’s as sophisticated (and powerful) as any recruiting platform on the market.

You probably aren’t aware that CareerBuilder (a joint venture of Microsoft and Gannett) are actually one of the twenty largest software companies in America, or that their career ad network, online reach and resume database are competitive with emerging players like Indeed or even LinkedIn. With a unique combination of online recruitment advertising solutions and a fully integrated, end to end recruiting system that’s highly customizable and configurable to every employer’s existing processes and procedures.

CareerBuilder recently rolled out a new brand identity, new product capabilities in sourcing, candidate engagement and candidate relationship management, among other improved functions and features.

Given its global scope and huge consumer reach, CareerBuilder looks like it’s only beginning its evolution, and while they’ve already built a world class talent technology, it seems like the best is yet to come from this erstwhile job board that is, in fact, anything but.

13. Indeed.

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We promise this is going to be the last recruitment advertising or online talent attraction technology included on our list, but when compiling a list of the most disruptive and innovative solutions on the HR Technology market, any list would be remiss not to include this job aggregation giant.

With 85% of candidates reporting to starting their job search at Google, the increasing importance of SEO and SEM for online recruiting success can’t be understated. That’s’ why Indeed, which through a smart combination of content deduplication and paid traffic buys, has become firmly ensconced at the top of pretty much every job or careers related search string out there.

Indeed is becoming the hub connecting the many disparate sources of online job postings, and by acting as an intermediary between search engine and job boards, Indeed is uniquely positioned to drive more candidates – and capture more data – than any other external source of hire solution.

This is a pretty damn good place in the process to be – and one reason why Indeed is only going to become more important in the months and years to come.

12. Salesforce for HR.

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I know this isn’t necessarily a talent technology (yet), but we can’t wait to see if Salesforce chooses to get into the HR game, a move we’ve been waiting years for, but the timing and opportunities for entering the HR Technology market have never been more opportune for this consumer CRM category killer.

With so many dedicated CRM offerings emerging for recruiting and talent acquisition thanks to a proliferation of point solutions, and established players all actively rolling out CRM capabilities in their legacy products as a response to customer demand, it’s safe to say that these platforms have become as integral to recruiting today as any tool out there today.

Most of these recruiting specific “CRMs,” however, are really nothing more than some repurposed code base stripped from an LMS or ATS, with limited functionality and clunky UI/UX guaranteed to create a crappy experience for recruiters and candidates alike.

Instead of settling for one of these point solutions, though, we think we’re close to seeing a shift in buying behavior as more recruiting organizations look outside the HR Technology sector and begin to adopt best-in-class consumer marketing CRM solutions instead of a reheated HCM system with some basic automation and segmentation capabilities. If recruiters want to adopt marketing best practices, they’ve got to adopt the best marketing tools, too.

Salesforce is a natural potential category killer within this space, as the original – and largest – SaaS based enterprise CRM suite. A global company with dominant market share, a huge existing customer base and a household name, Salesforce would have a head start in gobbling up market share that would likely prove insurmountable for any recruiting specific competition.

Salesforce has already rolled out a proprietary Salesforce for HR product, designed primarily as an employee engagement and internal communication and collaborations tool that’s already been adopted by such blue chip employers as Coca Cola and Virgin America.

Their existing offering already has a fairly robust analytics and benchmarking tool that could easily be extended to cover recruiting; just as easy as they could reconfigure their core CRM solution specifically for talent acquisition and candidate development.

With more and more products like TalentObjects by Lumesse, Target Recruit and JobScience increasingly integrating their offerings into the and app exchange, they’re building a business case that Salesforce can already function as an effective, stand alone recruiting solution. We’re not into gambling, but if we had to bet, we’d guess Salesforce is likely to launch a dedicated recruiting platform sooner rather than later, quickly becoming the category leader the industry needs, and the category killer its competitors fear.

All we can say is, “Game On.”

11. ZipRecruiter. 

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 Rounding out our top 5 list of the big brands making a big impact on the talent acquisition ecosystem is Zip Recruiter, which is aggressively moving from job distribution and candidate matching platform into a complete HR back office solution designed explicitly for SMB employers (who, by the way, make the majority of new hires every year – way more than their enterprise counterparts).

By delivering an enterprise grade solution to this historically underserved space, Zip Recruiter is not only leveling the recruiting playing field, but is also positioning itself as an emerging competitor to such SaaS solutions as or Intuit. By broadening its offerings to include such capabilities as tax withholding, payroll and time tracking, services that are particularly valuable to their largely small business user base, many of whom currently rely on outdated, manual processes for many of these tactical talent tasks, Zip Recruiter is looking to touch every part of the employee lifecycle.

Given its competitive price point, intuitive UI/UX and the brand reputation that’s resulting from its direct consumer marketing blitz, Zip Recruiter is has the configurability and capability to become an indispensible tool (and amazing source of hiring data and recruiting benchmarks) for the hundreds of thousands of small businesses out there looking for a leg up without paying an arm and a leg for recruiting technology, implementation or training.

Fortune 500 employers, you’ve been warned. The competition for top talent might just be getting a whole lot tighter once the technological playing field is leveled across organizations of all sizes and budgets. With this and other SMB focused SaaS solutions, the war for talent may finally become a fair fight.

Join us tomorrow as we finish our Top 15 Talent Tools for 2015 Countdown with 10 Recruiting Tools and HR Technologies you might not have heard of, but every employer and recruiting professional should know when selecting, implementing and optimizing their talent software and systems. Y’all come back now, ya hear?

Editor’s Note: RecruitingDaily was not compensated for this post, and the opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author.

By Matt Charney

Matt serves as Chief Content Officer and Global Thought Leadership Head for Allegis Global Solutions and is a partner for RecruitingDaily the industry leading online publication for Recruiting and HR Tech. With a unique background that includes HR, blogging and social media, Matt Charney is a key influencer in recruiting and a self-described “kick-butt marketing and communications professional.”