Disney's 'casting call' lures recruits

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Some 2,000 prospective employees attended the Disney Career Premiere recruiting party at the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park on May 11.

Coincidentally, Disney World had some 2,000 vacancies to fill, most of them entry-level positions.

The park's New York Street back lot was closed to the public from 7 p.m. to midnight to accommodate those seeking a Disney career.

Normally, that area would have remained accessible until 9:30 p.m. This is the first time that recruitment has taken place at a Disney theme park and with the added incentives of food and entertainment.

In the past, recruitment has been confined to the "casting" building, (the human resources area), a spokeswoman for that department said.

Disney World currently employs 55,000 people in full-time, part-time and seasonal posts, and it succeeded in convincing more than 1,000 applicants to sign up for interviews.

Some applicants were hired on the spot, according to the Disney spokeswoman, who described the applicants overall as "high quality" in terms of Disney's goal of hiring employees dedicated to delivering a high level of customer service.

Walt Disney World's entry-level wage is $6.35 per hour, with health insurance and vacation provided. Food service is among the categories where such positions exist.

The spokeswoman said that 100 representatives from Disney World's human resources department were on hand to accept applications and make on-the-spot hiring decisions.

Also on hand was a cross section of employees from various job categories, who answered questions from prospects interested in working in their areas, such as food service, hospitality, finance and human resources.

Walt Disney Attractions' travel industry marketing department, which works with agents and tour operators, has had no problems filling positions, a spokeswoman for that department said.

Because Orlando's unemployment rate is only 2.5% and other theme parks and hotel firms are seeking employees, recruitment has been more of a challenge over the past few years for Disney and other companies. To help overcome labor shortages, Disney World operates low-cost employee housing, subsidizes off-site education related to jobs and recruits at college campuses and local high schools, and even in Puerto Rico, the human resources department spokeswoman noted. Disney also offers some on-site training.

In addition, there are 6,000 internships offered per year, with 2,000 different interns accepted every four months.

Part-time and seasonal employees have the option of becoming full-timers, the spokeswoman noted.

Such flexibility is in Disney's favor, she said. Because this Career Premiere was so successful, Disney most likely will stage another innovative event for recruitment next year, she said.

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