Recruiting and Screening Mentors

Targeted recruitment—recruitment that is focused on particular attributes—guarantees not only that your program will hit its benchmarks, but that the types of individuals you recruit will also be up to the task. And while many programs use a formal screening process to weed out unsuitable volunteers, they can also save staff time and program resources by being intentional about who gets recruited in the first place. While no definitive scientific study has been made of the best ways to recruit mentors, a number of key points have emerged from the research that can affect how your program goes about recruitment.

Recruitment Planning

For best results, you should develop a written recruitment plan employing multiple strategies. As a starting place, answer the following questions:

  1. How many mentors do you hope to recruit?
  2. What qualifications and characteristics do you seek in mentors?
  3. Write a brief job description for a mentor in your program.
  4. Where are you most likely to find appropriate volunteers for your program?
  5. What local groups would be receptive to having you conduct a mentoring awareness and information session for their members?
  6. How might you tailor your recruitment message to target specific audiences?
  7. How might you tailor your recruitment strategies to target specific audiences?
  8. What role will each of your program’s stakeholder groups play in mentor recruitment?
  9. What role(s) could your advisory group play?

The Mentor Application

After successfully recruiting potential mentors, invite them to complete your program’s written application form. The form should request:

You may also wish to have applicants sign an agreement that commits them to:

As part of the written application, you should include a release statement that indicates the applicant agrees to a background check. This aspect of the screening process may seem unnecessary when working with a pool of known applicants, but it is an important part of the risk management process. Every mentoring program has a responsibility to exercise reasonable care (sometimes called “due diligence”) when faced with the chance that harm could result from its activities. Screening is part of the larger risk management effort that helps your program meet this responsibility. The best approach is to determine practical and feasible steps you can take to minimize the chance of any unintended, negative outcomes.3 Download a sample Mentor Application.

Your school, district, or partner organization may already have a system in place for performing criminal background checks. If they do not, SafetyNet—a collaborative effort of the FBI and the National Mentoring Partnership—will run fingerprint-based background checks for $18 per applicant. For more details, visit this website: http://apps.mentoring.org/safetynet/factsheet.adp.

The Interview

The final stage of the application process involves a face-to-face interview. You will want to develop a standard list of questions that you ask all applicants. Keep written records of all potential mentor interviews in your program files. Suggested questions might include:


1. Effective Mentor Recruitment: Getting Organized, Getting Results. Developed by the Mentoring Resource Center for the U.S. Dept. of Education Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools, 2006.

2. How to Build A Successful Mentoring Program Using the Elements of Effective Practice, MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership, 2005.

3. Guide to Screening and Background Checks. Developed by the Mentoring Resource Center for the U.S. Dept. of Education Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools, 2006.

4. Adapted from Yes, You Can: Establishing Mentoring Programs to Prepare Youth for College. U.S. Dept. of Education Partnership for Family Involvement in Education, 1998; and Chapter 22, Section 2, The Community Toolbox, KU Workgroup for Community Health and Development, 2007.