08/04/2015

Working At Walt Disney World | How To Apply: Stage One - The UK Online Application Process

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Today marks 200 days until my boss changes from a clown to a mouse. Bye, bye burgers, hello happiness!

But let's rewind a little and think back to January 2015, when I decided to put in my application to work for Disney, through Yummy Jobs (YJ) in the UK. There are a couple of ways in which a British person can work at Walt Disney World, including summer exchanges and programmes whilst at university, but I don't know enough about them to give you any concrete advice, so I'm only going to write here about The Cultural Representative Programme (CRP).

I initially heard about the CRP whilst attending a function with The Royal Navy. My father was a serving officer when he passed away in 2009, and every year since we have attended a prize giving ceremony at HMS Raleigh in Devon, where we have a prize in his name. Whilst I was at one of the ceremonies I met an officer who told me about his daughter doing a Disney college program and I thought it sounded amazing. Like so many other people I've grown up with Disney. From wearing a Pocahontas two piece legging and jacket set as seven year old, to colouring in Disney Princesses, and now to using an iPhone encased in a Minnie Mouse cover and blasting out The Hunchback of Notre Dame soundtrack as I get ready for a night out. The world may change exponentially, but the Disney magic of films old and new will never tire. In 2015 I decided then that I was going to put my all into my application, but not to expect too much due to the popularity of the CRP. I applied on a whim, for the very first time, and I've gone all the way. Now that I've had my experience with the recruitment process, and been successful, I feel it fated to share my experience in the hopes that someone else in the future may achieve their Disney dreams.

So what is the Cultural Representative Programme?
The CRP is a year long contract of employment as either a Food & Beverage or Merchandise Cast Member working in the United Kingdom Pavilion at EPCOT theme park, Walt Disney World. The roles are both very different and each offers the Cast Member an opportunity to hone skills, learn new ones and interact with guests of all ages from all around the world. The emphasis of the CRP is cultural interaction, and, as a CRP participant, you're expected to be able to confidently and proudly share your British heritage with guests, answer their questions about the UK and demonstrate British culture. The pavilion sells traditional food and drinks of the UK, as well as lots of home comforts in the shops, including Dairy Milk chocolate, Twinnings tea and football shirts. Coming from a food and beverage background I really hoped that Disney would allow me to transfer into something new and my lucky stars were shining over me as I'm actually going to be a Merchandise Cast Member...!
Click here to learn more about the CRP. 

If you're a national of any of the eleven countries EPCOT houses in its world showcase then you can apply, via Disney, through your in country recruitment process, but here in the UK the application consists of three stages, 1) An online application to YummyJobs which opens twice a year, usually in August and January, 2) A group interview somewhere in or near London, and 3) a personal face-to-face interview with a Disney International Recruiter at The Walt Disney Company HQ in Hammersmith, London. I am going to talk about the first stage in this post, and the latter two in upcoming blog posts. Please bear in mind that this is information about the 2015 application process and may differ slightly with each intake session.

YJ Website 
The Online Application
In my opinion this is the most difficult of all three stages, simply due the fact that you've really got to make your application stand out from the other thousands of people who have also applied during your intake session. I believe I am quite fortunate to have lived the life I have up until now and this was what my Unique Selling Point (USP) consisted of - my background. I grew up in many different locations throughout the UK (including Scotland), I also grew up in Moscow, Russia and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. I'm half Welsh, half English, I went to boarding school in Suffolk and I'm quite well travelled for a early 20 something (including Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Barbados, St Lucia, Antigua, Dubai and the Eastern Seaboard of the USA). In my opinion this is what makes me unique, and I wrote a lot about that. Find your USP and centre your application around it - whether it be some experience, a talent, what you do for a living or anything that really makes you and your personality stand out. 

The Form Itself
The first part of the application is generic personal and contact information. You know the type, name, address, next of kin etc. Then comes education where I listed my educational achievements in order from most recently achieved. Here I included my degree, A Levels, and GCSEs, and also qualifications I've achieved though work, like my shift management diplomas, and first aid. Next is entitled 'Work Experience' where I wrote about having been employed with McDonald's for the past five years and noted my main responsibilities, and my official job title.

The second part of the application process is the most important, it incorporates 'additional questions' that are designed to make you think on your feet. The first is 'Why do you value cultural exchange and interaction?' and here it's asking you to think about why it is important to you that we connect with people from all over the world to share information and why you would personally enjoy sharing Britain with the rest of the world. I focussed here on living in cultures that contrast to my own, and living in a globalised world, and how it's important for our growth both individually and as the wider human race to appease our natural curiosity for things new and exciting by exchanging cultural information with different people from across the world. 

The next questions is ambiguously titled 'Final Comments'. I was very unsure of what to write here, but I used it as further space to showcase my USP, and focussed on the individual traits that I thought would make me a perfect fit to become a CRP Participant. I touched upon extra curricular activities I did at school and university, how international living made me adaptable and independent at boarding school and in my university college at Durham, as well as how I enjoyed being part of the literary and debating societies at school. I then mentioned how I thought my background and life experience thus far has enabled me to be comfortable and confident in new situations, as well as how to adapt in unfamiliar surrounding - skills that allowed me to enter into my senior management role at work, and skills that I can definitely bring to EPCOT. 

YJ will then ask you to upload some documents including a passport style photograph of yourself, as well as a recent CV, cover letter and copy of your passport's information page. It also asks for a previous visa if you have one before offering you the chance to input your Passport details (I didn't do this as I felt that a photocopy of my actual passport page was sufficient, but you can choose to manually enter your details if you wish). 

The last part of the application form is the killer question, the make or break between you being a valued Disney enthusiast without taking you further, and a possible future Cast Member. The question is 'What is your motivation for the programme?' and it requires a good answer. Up until now the application for has allowed YJ to get a feel for you as a person, your background, what your current job involves and why you think it's important to perform cross-cultural exchange, but without you displaying your own motivation to go out and perform this exchange then you fall short of the Disney requirements. I made a point to emphasise how my current job as a hospitality ambassador for a fellow multi-billion dollar has really helped with my motivation for customer service. Couple that with my adulation for the Walt Disney brand and there I had a lot of motivation to succeed as a CRP Participant. This really is a personal question, and relies upon you knowing why you really want to do the programme and how to word it well. 

My Top 5 Tips
1) Write in good coherent English, if necessary get someone to check your application for you. This is your one shot to stand out from 2000+ people to get through to the next stage so really take the time to perfect your application as much as you can. Draft out your answers on Word or Pages (or equivalent) and think about how they would sound to a potential recruiter. 

2)Be professional. Ok, so you're putting your all into working for the number one entertainment brand on the planet but you still need to be professional, both in your answers and on your CV. I'm talking no colloquialisms, Mickey images on your CV, or silly WordArt. You can of course have some fun with your words, I used a lot of the Disney language like 'guest' not 'customer', and 'cast member' not 'employee' to make my application more Disney. I also slipped in phrases into my answers like 'It might be a small world after all...' and 'there must be more than this provincial life...' to inject a bit of my personality and into the monochrome pages of the online form. Fundamentally you're still looking for employment, it just so happens that that employment comes from Disney and at the end of the day they're really looking for professional people that will uphold the Disney Values. 

3) Write a Cover Letter. I'd not really written a cover letter before so I googled how to do it and took it to be an extra amount of space to sell myself. YJ and Disney are essentially looking for hardworking individuals who have lots of energy and personality so your Cover Letter is definitely one place to showcase this. In mine, amongst other things, I wrote about how I once ate over 30 Kinder Eggs just so that I could collect the Disney Princess toy collection. If that doesn't show brand loyalty then I don't know what will! 

4) Don't lie. This may seem like a given, but if you write something on your application and then get offered a pre-screen interview then YJ may ask you about your 'love of impersonations' or 'interest in wine' or whatever it is that you've put.  I've read stories of people who say they've been asked, in depth, about something they'd written so don't lie to make yourself look better - it'll only come back to bite you later if you can't answer truthfully! 

5) Keep to the point and don't waffle. You don't get a lot of space to write out your answers, only a limited number of characters, so you have to be prepared to cut down what you've written to make your words really pack a punch. Although I love to write, I can have a tendency to ramble and so I had to edit my answers a lot to get them into the word limit. Ensure you're only putting relevant information in your answers, and ensure that this information is going to sell you as a person. 

So there you have my experience of the online application process, the first stage of recruitment. Do your research, watch lots of vlogs on YouTube, read other people's blogs for their experiences,and read about the International Programs on Disney's website and you'll be well on your way to realising your dreams!

If you have any questions please leave them in the comments below or feel free to email me: louisekwilliams@googlemail.com.

Have a magical day! 

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