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I am currently hired as a Warehouse Colleague by a large Logistics company in the UK. After finding out about my technical background, qualifications and hobbies, they seconded me into the IT Department where I went on to become Lead Software Engineer for a very large and successful project. The software was rolled out across our UK sites and then re-branded and used as a "Gift / Perk" for several of our key partners, so it is now being used in 7 very large companies, including supermarkets and a car manufacturer.

I wanted to use this experience to get a better job, as I am still officially only a Warehouse Colleague and still only being paid minimum wage, despite programming bespoke software from scratch. (With no possibility of a promotion here as a programmer is a nice extra for the team, rather than a necessity).

I used the advice from here that I should write my CV so that it states my official title and then a title that best represents what work I was doing. On my CV I put "Warehouse Colleague (Systems Support / Software Development)" and thought that would be the end of it...

I was turned down for a job using this CV, when I contacted the HR Department for the company to enquire why I had been turned down, they said that they had called my current employer and had been told that I was only a Warehouse Picker and had not performed any other roles at the company. At first I believed that this was simply an oversight by our HR, but when I approached them I was told that HR do not keep track of secondment positions and will not inform potential employers of anything that I do during secondment. Officially I am in the warehouse picking stock, so that is all that they will tell anyone.

Now I'm stuck. If I can get an interview then I have several documents, emails, letters and printed guide-books for the software, all with my name on as the software developer. As well as several code examples that I know like the back of my hand. Problem is that I can't get an interview because anyone contacting my employer will basically be told that I am lying.

Is there any way that I can use my experience on a CV, despite HR shooting it down? Is there any polite way that I can make it clear to potential employers that my current employer will not be helpful?

Thank you all for your time, I look forward to your answers.

  • Is it typical in the UK for companies to check references before the interview stage? I would be quite aggravated by that part! – Paul Becotte Sep 6 '14 at 0:54
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    @PaulBecotte it is typical, but also it's typical for employers in the uk to acknowledge that just as they hire other people's employees, other firms will occasionally hire theirs, without it being a reason to fire the employee without warning for daring to want to better themselves – Rob Moir Sep 6 '14 at 7:28
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    It is quite impressive if you went from warehouse picker to lead software developer! However, being paid minimum wage seems like (to put it mildly) gross underpayment. Parallel to looking for a new job, you might also want to check whether this payment is even legal; at least in Germany you are paid for what you actually work, not what a job description says and union contracts certainly demand a higher payment than minimum wage for software devs. However, I don't know if this is also true in the UK as they are normally much less strict about rights for employees. – dirkk Sep 6 '14 at 9:48
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I would probably list it like this:

ABC Company

Warehouse Colleague Jan 2013-Present

  • Accomplishment 1
  • Accomplishment 2
  • Accomplishment 3

On secondment to IT Group Jan 2014 - Present

  • Accomplishment 1
  • Accomplishment 2
  • Accomplishment 3

That will make it clear that, while you were at the company the entire time, you served in a secondary role starting at a given time. When asked, mention that the HR department doesn't track secondment positions, and offer up a manager / senior colleague who can speak to the work you did while on secondment.

If called, HR will presumably confirm that you've worked in the warehouse since day 1; they will hopefully repeat what they said before ("we can't speak to secondment assignments"); and the manager / senior colleague will back you up for your secondment accomplishments.

7

In the UK, is it customary to list professional references as well as companies? The issue appears to be that your claim to have done the work of a software developer is not part of your title and is also not tracked by your company. So, no verification.

First, I would change the title on your CV back to "Warehouse Colleague" and not add anything to it. Then, address your newly found skillset thusly:

  • While working as a Warehouse Colleague, I was matrixed to a development team which I eventually led to the delivery of a largely successful product in use by customers throughout the UK. I am now pursuing a software development role because of my success in this role.

Second, find a colleague at your current company that can confirm your work. This can be done by getting their contact information (after they agree to verify what you did), by getting a reference on LinkedIn, or through an official letter if they are in a position that allows them to write official letters (eg. manager or above).

Third, on your cover-letter and in your interview, be sure to state that you were in a software development role, but because you were "loaned-out" to the other organization your company didn't track it and won't confirm it.

When starting out on a career like software development, it is very important to show your eagerness to learn and to improve your ability with your craft. Frankly, this is as important (if not more) than pure skills at the entry level. Besides stating that you are motivated, there are things you can do in your own time to show that you are excited about your new profession. For example:

  • Join a local software development club that focuses on your area of desired expertise. Java User Groups, and open-source groups are great ideas. I've personally found good clubs can be found on Meetup.com.

  • Look for an open-source product that you like, review the code, and contribute. The Apache Software Foundation and Eclipse.org are two organizations who are friendly to new developers. Many contributors start by helping to document the project, and then by working with the code start contributing bug-fixes. My personal favorites are Apache ServiceMix, Camel and Karaf.

  • Some forward-thinking employers actually use reputation scores from StackOverflow and other similar sites to help determine your zeal for development. While a company may not ask for it, providing your reputation score will show your hiring manager and technical interviewer that you are experienced enough for the entry-level. The good thing about these sites is that they don't just award points for experienced answers, but also for good questions as well. So, even a beginner can start gaining reputation.

Good luck with your new career, and let your excitement about software development be the thing that opens doors for you!

  • But in the UK references just like the USA have to be accurate if they contradicted the OP's statement they could open them selves up to a nasty court case I would go with the secondment I might if brave consider a formal grievance against the HR person – Pepone Sep 5 '14 at 20:17
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    @pepone I think Mike was suggesting that the OP choose more helpful references who are willing to be truthful (of course) but who will be willing to admit the OP is on secondment (unlike the somewhat useless HR dept) – yochannah Sep 5 '14 at 20:26
  • What does it mean to be "matrixed"? I've never seen that used as a verb before. – Burhan Ali Apr 5 '15 at 12:41

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