09: Selecting and matching mentees and mentors

After reading this section you should:

● be able to identify the key factors you need to consider when selecting and matching mentees and mentors

● understand the different approaches to matching, and which would work best for your program.

Key questions to ask yourself

  1. Are there any culturally specific factors that you need to consider when matching?

  2. What steps will you take to match mentees and mentors?

  3. Who will decide on mentoring matches?

  4. How much time and resources do you have to complete the matching process?

9.1 Selecting mentees

While mentoring is a two-way relationship and can be of equal value to both mentees and mentors, it is important to keep the focus on the mentees, because this is whom the program is really for. Therefore, unless you are starting from a situation of having an identified group of mentors and are seeking mentees, it is strongly recommended to select your mentees first. This way, you can directly assess the suitability of mentors in relation to the profiles and needs of your mentees.

While general factors such as demonstrated motivation and need should always be high on the list of selection criteria for mentees, additional specific criteria will depend on your program objectives and design. For example, if the mentoring program aims to support young researchers, you might include a selection criterion related to “demonstrated research potential”. In contrast, an event-based mentoring program with unlimited participants might simply set an age or experience limit for mentees.

When assessing applicants, try to also consider things like age, gender, and regional location, and ensure a diversity of mentees and mentors are selected.

9.2 Selection and matching: possible approaches

Once you have selected your mentees, the next step is to match them with a suitable mentor. You will need to decide who will be responsible for this important step. Will the mentoring coordinator lead the match-making process? Will you seek input from other members of your team? What role will the mentees play in this process, if any?

In the mentoring programs profiled in this toolkit, the matching process has been led by the mentoring coordinator, often with the input of fellow team members (see the Resources section for example “Instructions for matching” for an event-based program). For a one-on-one mentoring program, this has involved the following process:

  1. Select mentees

  2. Review list of potential mentors and identify their key skills/qualities/factors (relevant to the key selection and matching criteria you identified in Module 8 – Finding mentees and mentors – part 2)

  3. Do a preliminary match (e.g. 1–3 in order of preference) for each mentee

  4. Review all potential matches and finalise your selection.

However, there is only so much you can learn about a person through reading their application. If you have the resources, making a time to speak to mentees and mentors (e.g. via phone or Skype) can give you a better understanding of their personalities and how they might work together as a team. A potential process could be:

  1. Select mentees

  2. Interview mentees

  3. Do a preliminary selection and match of mentors

  4. Interview potential mentors

  5. Select your final matches.

9.3 Involving mentees

Mentees often appreciate the opportunity to suggest their own mentors – for example, when they (the mentee) first apply – and this should always be taken into consideration.

The extent to which you involve mentees in the matching process will depend on your mentoring approach, design, and resources/capacities.

In some situations, such as a small intake or a program in which mentees and mentors may already be familiar with each other, you may decide to share the list and bios of potential mentors with the mentees and ask mentees to identify their top preference(s). Another option would be to run an initial open networking event to give selected mentees the opportunity to meet with potential mentors. However, this approach has the risk of certain mentors being more “popular” than others, so expectations will have to be carefully managed. This also requires additional time and resources, and – particularly for programs with large intakes – may be less feasible.

9.4 Matching: other things to consider

Whatever your situation, and whatever your approach to mentoring, there are a few things that are valuable to consider when matching:

Hierarchy and rank – In some cultures, having large differences in “rank” between mentees and mentors can pose difficulties in establishing relationships.

Seniority vs experience – These are not always the same! Think about the kind of skills and knowledge your mentee needs, and who is best placed to provide this support.

Geographic location – The importance of geographic proximity depends on the goals and design of your program. Think about things such as travel times, time differences, and knowledge of local/regional topics and cultures, and how these might impact the success of the mentoring relationship.

Personality types – A shy mentee might benefit from a different kind of mentor than a highly outgoing and confident mentee.

Gender – Male and female mentee/mentor matches can be great, but may also need some additional agreements about respectful and equitable interaction that is sensitive to the cultures of the participants.

Language – What language will you run your program in (e.g. resources and training)? What other languages are participants confident in mentoring/being mentored in?

9.5 Confirming the matches

Regardless of whether you plan to hold a face-to-face meeting or orientation workshop, the first step will be contacting all applicants to confirm their selection (or otherwise!). This first email should be sent to mentees and mentors separately, and should include:

● a brief bio of their mentor/mentee

● any resources/documents they should read and/or complete before starting the program

● an offer to write a formal invitation letter they could give to their employer to request leave for any required workshops

● a summary of next steps.

Take action!

  • Identify any culturally or locally specific factors that you need to consider when matching.

  • Define your matching criteria.

Resources

Stories

Sarah, Youth in Landscapes Initiative, sharing a story of how her process of going beyond the responses provided in the registration form to find out as much as she could about applicants resulted in one particularly successful match lasting years beyond an event-based program

Dorothy, Deputy Director of AWARD, sharing stories of some of the most successful mentoring matches, and her views on why they work