Recruiting the right mentors and mentees for your teen mentoring program is key to program success. School-based teen mentoring programs have a constant supply of potential mentors and mentees to draw from4. This section focuses on building a recruitment strategy to attract those students best suited to become successful teen mentors and those students who will benefit most from the program as mentees.
The first step in recruiting mentors is to establish criteria for the the youth you want to attract to your program. Develop a Teen Mentor Job Description that outlines the position, time commitment, responsibilities, and benefits, as well as the eligibility criteria, qualifications and attributes that mentors should have to be effective in their role. Step 2: Tool A – Teen Mentor Job Description (Sample) provides an example. In establishing your program’s Teen Mentor Job Description, consider the following details as part of the eligibility criteria. The eligibility criteria are the minimum and preferred criteria necessary for a student to become a mentor16.
- Age and/ or grade. Evidence suggests that high school students are more prepared to use good judgement, maintain boundaries, and be a “wise and trusted friend” than middle school or junior high students and that there are larger positive effects for participants when the pair attend different schools3,4. Furthermore, the benefits of mentoring programs on middle and elementary school-aged mentors are smaller than the benefits for high-school aged mentors10. It is recommended that there is a an age difference of at least two years and/ or two grades between the mentor and the mentee to increase the opportunity for mentors to take a leadership role in the match and be seen as more experienced role models17.
- Availability. It will be necessary that mentors can fully commit to the program which will involve a specific number of hours per month for a specific amount of time (ex. 1 hour/ week for a full school year). The eligibility criteria may also include that mentors complete the screening process, and are available to attend orientation and training session(s). You can help ensure students follow through with their commitments by choosing youth who are not overcommitted to other programs or activities4.
- Desired skills, characteristics and attributes. You may choose to recruit students with a desire to help others, consistent attendance, passing grades, and a level of school connectedness, amongst other skills and strengths. Some characteristics of a successful mentor include: caring, patient, flexible, good listener, stable, can provide leadership, reliable, responsible, committed, nonjudgmental, open-minded, accepts differences, will keep information confidential, likes children, and has a good sense of humour15,24.
- Prerequisite courses. It may be required that students are registered in or have completed a class, course or credit (ex. CTS Mentoring Courses).
Tips for Recruiting Mentors:
- When starting a new teen mentoring program, you may choose to start slowly and be selective for the first year to establish the reputation of the program and to ensure it is manageable.
- Offer mentoring as part of a leadership CTS course so that mentors can receive credits for their time. It may be important that youth voluntarily choose to participate in mentoring programs or classes as the use of ‘mandatory mentors’ can limit the gains for mentees13.
- Get the word out early in the school year to recruit students before they become too busy with other leadership and extracurricular opportunities. A major challenge with engaging teen mentors can be competing demands in their lives that cause scheduling conflicts18.
- Try to involve teen mentors before their senior year. Younger students are more likely to carry over their match into subsequent years14.
- Ask teachers and counsellors to refer or nominate students who would be effective teen mentors. Share information at staff meetings to let everyone know about these opportunities.
- Promote the program at meetings for student organizations, clubs and groups.
- Connect personally with potential mentors. Set up booths at school events, speak to classes, and/or provide an information session for interested students. Keep the presentation brief and entertaining and have application forms available after the session. Step 2: Tool B – Teen Mentor Application and Parent/ Guardian Information and Permission Form (Sample) can be adapted for your program and made available during the recruitment phase.
- Support existing Teen Mentors to recruit their friends. Encourage them to share with their peers the reasons they got involved in the program and what they enjoyed about the experience. Give them pamphlets to share with their friends. Word of mouth is often the best strategy.
- Use common, accessible and strength-based language in all of your recruitment materials.
- Recruit students who represent a diverse range of abilities, interests, cultures, and qualities. Students with a variety of experiences can empathise with their peers and treat them more as equals6.
- Use a marketing campaign using posters, brochures, announcements, newsletters and other available advertising formats at your school.
It is important to set mentee eligibility criteria that align with your program’s goals and objectives5. Who are the targeted mentees? How old are they? Which students will benefit most from this opportunity? Will they be recruited from within your school or a partnering school? Will they be referred individually or as a class? In one Canadian study, it was found that referring an entire class of student mentees for teen mentoring should be avoided as it was associated with negative changes in emotional/ behaviour problems, pro-social interactions, school belonging, and self-esteem for mentees11. Other factors to consider for mentee selection are availability, scheduling, and student strengths and needs.
Tips for Recruiting Mentees:
- Solicit referrals or nominations from teachers, counsellors, administrators, parents/ guardians and support staff.
- Create opportunities for youth to self-refer by advertising the program.
- Emphasize the benefits mentees will get out of the program to get them excited about participating.
- Avoid recruiting only high-risk youth. Instead, look for mixed-risk status among potential mentees7. Recruit a cross-section of youth that represent a wide range of abilities, skills, interests, and experiences to reduce stigma and to reach a wide range of students.
- Prepare a mentee referral package including a program overview; referral and/ or application forms; parent/ guardian permission forms; and any other information you deem relevant to your program. The following sample documents can be adapted to fit your program and provided to potential mentees, parents/ guardians, and teachers: