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What is a reference?

This article describes the process of vetting mentor applicant references during screening. References are vital to gaining a full picture of the applicant as family, friends, and colleagues can reveal key information. References can result in flags and can also introduce new and exciting match facts about the applicant. 

Important Reference Information:

  • Mentor applicants provide 3 references (name, email, phone number, and relationship to the mentor) when filling out the mentor application.  
  • During orientation or the day after, each mentor applicant’s references are emailed questions via an “eReference form.” Each eReference form contains a unique link that can only be used by the assigned reference. 
  • eReference forms should be sent to unresponsive references every 2 days, up to 3 times, before either calling the reference and/or sending a manual email through Outlook.  
  • Templates for sending manual emails to references are available in the Salesforce email widget. Please edit template accordingly, making sure to copy and paste the reference's unique link to their eReference form. 


  • Screeners will sometimes call references if they are unresponsive by email or if the screening process needs to be expedited. 
  • When a reference is submitted, an automated email is sent to the Screener who owns the mentor application. The Screener will review the reference and mark it as approved or not viable promptly. 
  • We require that each mentor applicant provide three references, but if screeners have approved two viable responses, we do not need to pursue the third. The third reference may be requested if more information is needed to make an acceptance decision. 
  • Only one reference is allowed to be a family member. Please note that we consider significant others “family”.  In the case of ex-partners or ex in-laws, the distinction of "family" is determined by the applicant. If they refer to their ex as a "friend" in the eReference form, we will not consider that person "family". 
  • References MUST have known the mentor applicant for 6 months or more. 
  • If a screener has not received two viable references within the first few weeks of screening OR by the time the other steps in screening have been completed, screeners may need to ask the mentor applicant for new references. Template language for asking for additional references is available in the Salesforce email widget.
  • Often times, applicants will submit incorrect email addresses for their references. When you get a bounce back email, look closely at it before reaching out to the mentor applicant for an updated email address. It could be an error you could easily fix. 


Overview of the reference questions:

  1. Please briefly describe your relationship to the mentor  

This question is key in determining reference’s eligibility per the only one family member rule and, in certain situations, can provide helpful additional context (perhaps the reference is a former mentee etc). 

  1. What motivated mentor to apply?  

Gauging motivation is very important in enacting a thorough screening process and determining mentor applicant appropriateness. This question helps to flesh out unsavory motivations for working with young people and our student population. 

  1. Applicant excels at/finds challenging 

These questions give us a deeper and more well-rounded picture of the mentor applicant. Disclosure of certain challenges could be a flag, i.e. if the mentor applicant has no patience or empathy, tends to bite off more than they can chew, or cannot tolerate people who don’t show proper motivation as they define it. Any additional positive context is helpful in both the screening and matching processes.  

  1. Applicant responses to challenges/changes 

Adaptability and patience are key when working with young people, many of whom routinely deal with unpredictable and unforeseen circumstances in their academic and personal lives. A good mentor needs to be able to be flexible resourceful and consistent regardless of whether things go to plan or not.  

  1. Applicant follow through on commitments   

Mentor consistency is an important hallmark of our program and key to the student’s success. Studies have shown that having an inconsistent or absent mentor is worse for a young person than having no mentor at all. We hope this question will mitigate any potential concern about lack of mentor follow-through. 

  1. Please evaluate the mentor applicant in the following areas using the following scale 1 = Poor and 5 = Excellent: 
  2. Empathy 
  3. Flexibility 
  4. Strengths-Based Mindset 
  5. Humility 
  6. Open to Other Backgrounds/Cultures 
  7. Patience 

We are very excited to be able to get so much pertinent information in this quick and easy question! The attributes that the mentor applicants are being rated on are absolutely key to being a safe, consistent and appropriate mentor to a teenager. NOTE: If a mentor applicant receives three or more 3's, two or more 2's or one or more 1's, the screener must create a yellow flag in their application (in Salesforce) and discuss it with their manager. Additionally, the eReference form allows references to elaborate on any of these ratings as needed. The screener can also choose to reach out to the reference for additional context on a rating. Always discuss with your manager if you have concerns regarding a reference. 

A note on ratings: Sometimes, a reference accidentally clicks all “1’s” when they meant to select the highest possible rating of “5”. An indication of this mix up would be if the rest of the reference is very positive. In these cases, the screener must reach out to the reference to confirm whether they meant to give the applicant the highest or lowest scores. The response should be logged in the applicant’s application history, and the reference can then be approved as normal. 

  1. Is there any reason this mentor applicant should not be working with minor children and teenagers? YES NO 

Where safety and appropriateness are concerned, sometimes you have to just be direct and hit it right on the nose, as this question does. If the reference answers YES, a free form box will be triggered requiring the reference to explain their response. A YES response should result in a red flag being created in the mentor applicant’s application on Salesforce, and review by the AD of Screening. 

  1. Anything else about mentor? 

These types of “catch all”, open-ended questions are great for getting relevant information that will help us determine a mentor applicant’s capacity to be a safe, consistent and appropriate mentor. Often questions such as this will result in random disclosures or flag-worthy responses that would not have otherwise come out in the rest of the questions. 

9.  We are always looking for more great mentors in New York, Baltimore, Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area. Would you be interested in being a mentor?

  • YES 
  • NO 

If a reference answers YES, they’re interested in becoming a mentor, it is automatically pulled into reports used by the Volunteer/Mentor Engagement Teams in each region.  

Lastly, the bottom of the eReference form requires that the reference confirm that their responses are the truth and then they MUST affix a digital signature for it to be a valid reference. 

By checking the box below, I certify that I have completed this eReference check to the best of my ability and that I did not receive input from any other parties, including the mentor applicant, in formulating my responses.  


 By typing my name in the box below, I am affixing my digital signature to this eReference Check  

NOTE: If you as a Screener have to call a reference on the phone, you must fill in the digital signature field with “(your name) called the reference on the phone” and date, click confirm and then submit the reference.