Best Practice Blog: Top tips and FAQs on recruiting and training mentors.

Recruiting a ready supply of mentors is crucial to the success of any mentoring scheme. However, this can often be one of the biggest challenges in setting up such a scheme. Potential student mentors may not have sufficient interest in or recognition of the benefits of being involved in mentoring international students due to other demands on their time. They may be occupied with their coursework, apathetic about becoming involved, or hesitant to give up their valuable socialising time. Providing incentives and effectively communicating the value of mentoring schemes is key to attracting mentors.


Most institutions that run mentoring schemes offer some form of incentive to potential mentors. Offering incentives makes the system more attractive and professional to potential mentors while also setting expectations for their level of commitment. For example, mentors may be required to provide several hours of service, such as at least two hours per week for five weeks, or commit to being a mentor for a whole term. Incentives could include:

  • Payment (hourly rate or a lump sum once the mentoring period ends) to cover expenses.
  • Vouchers or tokens such as Amazon vouchers, coffee, and cinema vouchers.
  • Discounts on local services, free membership, or discounts on institutional services.
  • Training or involvement in an accredited mentoring scheme, such as national accreditation as a volunteer.
  • Certificate of achievement or completion of the mentoring scheme.
  • Eligibility for a prize or award.

Who to Recruit

Certain types of students may be more inclined to become mentors. Language or exchange students who have returned from their year abroad are more likely to understand the value of mentoring other students, given their experience with moving abroad to study. Students on courses with an international focus and international students themselves could also be encouraged to participate, especially with the support of their tutors. Additionally, targeting students studying subjects closely related to people and behaviour, such as psychology, may yield more effective recruitment results. It's essential to determine the scope of your recruiting pool, whether you want to recruit only the most experienced students (e.g., third years or postgraduates) or open the opportunity to all students, including exchange or short-term students.

The selection process should include assessing the suitability of mentors for the role. A well-crafted mentor application form can help identify students whose motivation aligns with the program's objectives. Defining criteria in advance for the desired mentors will ensure consistency in the selection process and transparency for those who still need to be selected.

When to Recruit

Choosing a suitable recruitment period is crucial, as the process may take several weeks. Recruiting during exam times or holidays is unlikely to attract the maximum number of potential mentors. Many institutions opt for recruiting in April, allowing mentoring programs to commence in September or October. Another option is recruiting towards the end of the summer term.

Recruitment Methods

Recruitment methods can be as formal or informal as desired, depending on the program's goals and the number of participants. Standard recruitment methods include:

  • Emailing all students or specific groups of students.
  • Requesting academic support to speak to particular groups of students.
  • Seeking assistance from academics or tutors to communicate directly with their students.
  • Contacting the institution's volunteering centre to recruit volunteer mentors.
  • Appointing a few student mentoring ambassadors to act as recruiters for others.
  • Engaging student union representatives to help in the recruitment process.
  • Distributing flyers or putting up posters.

The information and commitment required from potential mentors may vary at this stage. The recruitment process can involve asking mentors to reply to an email, join a Vygo group of potential mentors, complete an online application form, or attend a meeting or training session.

Training Mentors

Training is crucial for equipping mentors with the necessary skills and knowledge to fulfil their roles effectively. The training should cover various aspects, including:

  • Setting expectations: Outlining mentors' responsibilities, expectations, and boundaries.
  • Communication skills: Building practical communication skills to engage mentees and establish a trusting relationship.
  • Cultural sensitivity: Guiding cultural awareness and sensitivity when working with international students from diverse backgrounds.
  • Problem-solving and conflict resolution: Equipping mentors with strategies to help mentees navigate challenges and conflicts.
  • Referral pathways: Informing mentors about support services and resources available to needy students.
  • Legal and ethical considerations: Addressing confidentiality, data protection, and appropriate behaviour.

Training can be delivered through different formats, including face-to-face sessions, online modules, or a combination. It's essential to offer ongoing support and supervision to mentors throughout the mentoring period, providing them with opportunities to reflect on their experiences and seek guidance when needed. Vygo offers a free Mentor Academy for anyone interested in starting their journey as a mentor. 

FAQ - Recruiting and Training Mentors

Q: How can I attract mentors to participate in the mentoring scheme?

A: To attract mentors, it's essential to effectively communicate the benefits of the mentoring scheme and provide incentives. Incentives can include payment, vouchers, discounts, training opportunities, certificates, or eligibility for prizes or awards. The Vygo team can share one-pagers and more detailed slide decks to help.

Q: Who should we target when recruiting mentors?

A: Consider targeting students who have studied abroad, international students themselves, students on courses with an international focus, or those looking at subjects related to people and behaviour. It's essential to determine the scope of your recruiting pool and whether you want to include specific student groups or open the opportunity to all students.

Q: When is the best time to recruit mentors?

A: Choosing a suitable recruitment period is crucial. You can avoid recruiting during exams or holidays since it may not attract the maximum number of potential mentors. Many institutions opt for recruiting in April, allowing mentoring programs to commence in September or October. Recruiting towards the end of the summer term is another option.

Q: What are some effective recruitment methods?

A: Recruitment methods can include emailing students, leveraging academic support to reach specific student groups, involving faculty members or tutors, utilizing the institution's volunteering centre, appointing student mentoring ambassadors, engaging student union representatives, or distributing flyers and posters.

Q: How should mentors be trained?

A: Mentors should undergo training to equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge. The training should cover setting expectations, communication skills, cultural sensitivity, problem-solving, referral pathways, and legal and ethical considerations. Training can be delivered through face-to-face sessions, online modules, or both.

Q: How long should the mentoring period be?

A: The duration of the mentoring period can vary depending on the program's goals and needs. It can range from a few weeks to an entire academic year. Please consider the needs of the mentees and mentors and the time commitments involved.

Q: What ongoing support should be provided to mentors?

A: Ongoing support and supervision are essential for mentors. Provide opportunities for reflection, feedback sessions, and access to resources. Mentors should feel supported throughout the mentoring period and have a point of contact for guidance and assistance. Some of our universities have ‘Mentor Communities', which allows mentors to connect and engage with each other throughout their time on the platform.

Want to see how Vygo can help you with your peer mentoring programme for your students? Book a demo today to learn more about our comprehensive support system, personalised approach, and analytics tools. Contact Vygo now.

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