Abstract Though the antecedents and outcomes of mentoring relationship have been studied extensively, the initiation stage of mentorship is quite neglected and the empirical research is scarce. The mutual selection between protégés and mentors is an important issue in mentorship initiation studies. This paper devoted to examine the determinants of personal characteristics on potential protégé attraction and potential mentor attraction into a mentorship by three experiments. The first and second experiment examined the influences of mentor’s extraversion, achievement motivation, supervisor role and gender similarity on the protégé’s’ intention of initiation. 241 senior students assumed the role of protégés in a technical college participated in the first experiment in which mentor’s personal characteristics were designed with a mixed-design by 2 (male, female) × 2 (extravert, introvert) × 2 (high achievement motivation, low achievement motivation) × 2 (supervisor, none-supervisor), where the mentor’s supervisor role was a between-subject variable. The results of the first experiment indicated that the influences of mentor’s extraversion and achievement motivation were significant. The protégés had stronger intention to initiate a mentor relationship with those extravert, high achievement motivation mentors. The second experiment, in which 97 undergraduate seniors in a top university participated, had the similar design with the first experiment however the mentor’s supervisor role was treated as an in-subject variable. The outcomes of the second experiment showed that the extravert and supervisor mentor had stronger attraction to the potential protégés. The third experiment studied the protégé’s’ personal characteristics’ influence on mentor’s initiation intention. 262 juniors in a top university were assigned to assume mentor’s role to evaluate 8 profiles of potential protégés. The results indicated that protégé’s’ extraversion had s significant effect on mentor’s initiation intention and mentors prefer those extravert protégés. The main effect of the protégés’ achievement motivation is significant too, but it has interactions with the protégés’ gender and extraversion. The findings were interpreted in light of the strengths and weaknesses of these studies, and suggestions were made for future research focusing on the attraction stage of the mentoring relationship. This study contributes to the mentorship literature in several ways. First, this paper provided a good support of the application of social exchange theory in mentorship area. Second, this research used an experimental design to extend our understanding of the mentor-protégé dyads mutual selection process by controlling extraneous sources of variables and the findings generated in this experiments could be used to inspire more field studies. Third, this study goes further by encompasses both mentors’ and protégés’ perspectives in a same research. At last, while most samples of mentorship initiation are westerners, Chinese subjects in the mainland of this study in can enrich the culture context.
Key words mentor-protégé selection, extraversion, achievement motivation, supervisor role, gender similarity|