Two small Irish companies play a part in the recruitment process for CERN - the Switzerland-based European organisation which is trying to get to the bottom of such big questions as what the universe is made of, and how it started. Sonru and Social Talent help CERN to hire staff. And, as part of the Enterprise Ireland trade mission, the two firms visited Geneva yesterday. 

Sonru is a Wexford based company that uses online video to help with the early stage recruitment process. The company's Maiken O'Byrne says that Sonru covers all levels of positions, ranging from very senior management positions, to very specialised firefighters who can deal with extreme heat levels and to receptionists.

Social Talent finds those elusive specialists that an organisation like CERN needs. The company's Johnny Campbell says that one of the things his company does with CERN is to identify people with talents for very unusual jobs. He says the organisation has developed a great brand over the last few years, but in certain areas it is still not very well known. Social Talent helps CERN how to find people with skills in other sectors related to industries and bring those people to them.

Describing CERN as a "wonderful client," Mr Campbell says he can imagine the impact it has in bringing "really smart" people to work with the group. He says that rare specialists leave "digital breadcrumbs" around the internet and Social Talent teaches the company's recruiters - or "sourcing ninjas" - to be able to identify these breadcrumbs and track down the individual through his published work and concentrate on the topics they have worked on. Recruiters then try to sell the idea of CERN to these potential workers - all in a very short space of time. 

Mercury Engineering builds big data centres and has Swiss clients. Alan Clinton, who has spent a lot of time in Switzerland, says Swiss living standards and labour costs are high. This means that companies have to pay a lot for contracts and so while they are demanding, they are fair. He says the Swiss have a similar work ethic to the Irish ethic, know their goals and work hard to achieve them. Swiss firms also prefer to work with companies face to face and prefer to hold phone conversations rather than endless emails. They also have fairly strict rules on working hours and Mr Clinton says he has to sneak on a Sunday in order to get a project finished on time.