Interviewing your future mentor: Questions to ask & questions to avoid

You've identified your perfect mentor (Still looking? Read this). Now it's time to dig deeper and make sure this prospective mentor is as good for you in person as they are on paper.

Ask the prospective mentor about themselves.

One, people love to talk about themselves. Two, you'll get a sense of what matters to your future mentor and if they align well with your needs and interests.

  • What are your professional goals? What values drive you?
  • What are some defining moments in your career that informed your leadership style?
  • What's the most important leadership lesson you've learned, and how has it proven invaluable?
  • Why do you want to be a mentor?

Get clear on expectations.

Ask questions to help understand the mentor's interest in mentoring you as well as their availability. Mentors bring different strengths to the table, and just like you, there are things they probably love or hate. Find a mentor who loves doing the things that are essential to your growth.

  • How would you describe the ideal mentor-mentee relationship?
  • What are your favorite parts of a mentorship?
  • What are your less-preferred parts of a mentorship?

Ask the prospective mentor to describe a successful mentorship.

  • What do you hope we can accomplish together through this mentorship? 
  • What do you want me, as your mentee, to achieve?

There are some questions you don't want to ask your mentor.

Just as there are great questions to ask, they are also questions you'll want to avoid in early conversations with your mentor. Maybe, over time, the mentor-mentee relationship will grow to a point where these questions are appropriate to ask but in early conversations, steer clear of asking:

  • Can you introduce me to ____? Don't ask for introductions. The mentor has invested their time and energy in you already. Unless they offer, don't ask.
  • What's your secret to success? Your mentor has built their career over many years using a considerable amount of time, energy, and resources. Access to their "secrets" should be earned. Mentors reserve this valuable advice for mentees they both deeply trust and believe in, which takes a significant amount of time and effort to establish.
  • What advice do you have for me? Just like you need to get to know your mentor, they need to know their mentee and their mentee's goals. There is no one-size-fits-all magic advice. 

Always wrap up your initial conversation with your prospective mentor by asking: 

  • Is there anything we didn't cover in today's conversation that you want me to know about you?

Do you have other tips for interviewing prospective mentors? Drop them in the comments!

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