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How to match mentors and protégés for successful mentorship programs: a review of the evidence and recommendations for practitioners

Connie Deng (Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada)
Duygu Biricik Gulseren (School of Human Resources Management, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies, York University,Toronto, Canada)
Nick Turner (Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 9 February 2022

Issue publication date: 6 April 2022




The purpose of this qualitative review paper is to identify for practitioners ways of matching mentors and protégés to enhance the effectiveness of formal mentoring programs.


The paper qualitatively reviews the best available evidence of ways to match mentors and protégés to maximize mentorship outcomes.


Two factors to consider when making mentor–protégé matches emerged from the research literature (1) the matching process (i.e., how matches are made and facilitated by practitioners such as incorporating participant input on matches): and (2) individual characteristics (i.e., individual differences that may serve as matching criteria such as experiential, surface-level, and deep-level characteristics). This qualitative review resulted in three practical recommendations to practitioners interested in matching mentors and protégés using evidence-based methods: (1) match based on deep-level similarities, (2) consider developmental-needs of protégés during matching, and (3) seek mentors' and protégés’ input before finalizing matches.

Research limitations/implications

Limitations of the research reviewed are highlighted: measures of perceived similarity, relative effectiveness of matching-related factors, limited research investigating the role of dissimilarity on mentoring outcomes, and linear relationship assumptions between matching-related factors and mentoring outcomes.

Practical implications

The authors’ recommendations suggested greater use of valid psychometric assessments to facilitate matching based on actual assessed data rather than program administrators' personal knowledge of mentors and protégés.


The literature on mentor–protégé matching is missing practical guidance on how to apply the research. This highlights a need for a qualitative review of the literature to identify what matching processes and criteria are most effective, providing a “one-stop-shop” for practitioners seeking advice on how to construct effective mentor–protégé matches in formal mentorship programs.



The authors thank Kathleen Boskill, Debbie Hrubec, Shelly Kirkland, and Glenda Reynolds for helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper.

Funding: This study received funding from the Canadian Centre for Advanced Leadership in Business enabled collaboration on this paper.


Deng, C., Gulseren, D.B. and Turner, N. (2022), "How to match mentors and protégés for successful mentorship programs: a review of the evidence and recommendations for practitioners", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 43 No. 3, pp. 386-403.



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