When you apply for the role, you’ll find that Scrum master interview questions are rather specialized, and that’s because the Scrum master has a rather unique part to play on your typical technology team. They’re not project managers per se—that role belongs to actual project managers—and they’re not executives, even though they have a hand in managing the team’s workflow.
A Scrum master role, in broadest strokes, is part taskmaster, part organizer, and part manager; they ensure that the team follows the Scrum framework, and work hard to eliminate any distractions or impediments to that particular goal. If you’re doing everything from helping the product manager deal with a backlog, to removing the team’s external blockers to progress, to educating everyone on Agile and Scrum principles… well, you’re going to need great people skills. In fact, your “soft skills” are one of the key things that will come up over and over again in scrum master interview questions.
But that’s not all you need! “In the IT industry, Agile method is rapidly rising as the norm in delivering,” Richard Cheng, VP of Training and Chief Product Owner at NextUp Solutions Training, told Dice.
An Agile coach and Certified Scrum Trainer, Cheng has deep experience in training organizations to understand core concepts around Agile, Scrum, Kanban, DevOps and how those concepts can scale in client organizations: “When doing Agile, at the execution level, the vast majority of teams are using Scrum.”
What should I know about the Scrum master job?
Cheng offers five key factors every good scrum master should have:
Knowledge: Deep understanding of Agile values and the Scrum framework, as well as other Agile practices and methods such as Kanban and XP (extreme programming) concepts.
Experience: Agile concepts are relatively straightforward, but often complicated to implement. In the course of Scrum master interview questions, the hiring manager or recruiter will likely focus on your past work with Scrum teams, and whether you have experience in implementing Agile concepts. Other questions will delve into your ability to work through the complicated nuances of creating effective teams.
Coaching: Scrum masters should wield very little official power; all their power comes from influence and guidance. To that end, companies are looking for someone with a deep understanding of how to work with people and coach them through decision-making and understanding of what’s effective.
Facilitation: A deep understanding of facilitation techniques to help individuals, teams, and organizations to brainstorm, organize ideas, and come to decisions.
Servant Leadership: In other words, having a deep sense of helping others. Servant leaders don’t need to be the center of attention; instead, they focus on creating an environment where everyone can succeed. During Scrum master interview questions, your collaboration and teamwork abilities will surely come up.
How should I prepare for a Scrum master interview?
Research the company long before you step through the door (or boot up your video-conferencing software) for the interview. “I recommend researching the company, in particular what is the current state of the company’s Agile practices,” Cheng said. “What is the driving force behind why the company is going towards Agile? What are some of the top issues the organization is seeing in their Agile implementations? From there, coming in with thoughts and perspectives on the items above.”
Identifying how an Agile development process may help the company drive results is an attractive talking point during the interview. You may need to dig through some whitepapers or developer blog posts to get a better sense of how the company currently operates, but such top-level knowledge can also help you stand out in a crowded field of candidates.
How can I succeed in a Scrum master interview?
“Successful conveying their experience and expertise and then ensuring that the position begin offered is a good fit for what the candidate wants,” Cheng advised. “Explaining to an interviewer how the candidate can help the organization achieve their Agile goals. Also ensure that the company culture aligns with what the candidate would want in a company culture.”
As Cheng notes, a Scrum master should prepare to discuss their successes and failures in past roles, speaking more specifically to the Scrum process where applicable. Taking the time to discuss scrum master/agile certifications also matters; if you have those, make sure to seed them into your answers to Scrum master interview questions.
Near the end of a job interview, the hiring manager or recruiter will often ask if you have questions for them. Cheng suggests this is a great opportunity to ask them what success looks like for the position you’re interviewing for. Not only will you get a sense of their expectations, but you’ll have a better understanding of what upward mobility looks like at the company.
You’re always going to want to make sure that any skills, talents, or certifications you have that apply to this position are prominently displayed in your scrum master resume. After all, you want to make sure that a company knows you are the best potential candidate before you even go to your interview.
What are the challenges faced in this position?
Scrum managers can often be taken advantage of, Cheng cautioned: “Being spread too thin, such as being spread across multiple teams” top the list of those concerns.
“Being in an organization that isn’t aligned with Agile practices” is also something to think about, as is “having individuals, teams, or departments that don’t embrace the Agile mindset. The organization not understanding what a Scrum master’s responsibilities really are and conflating a Scrum master with a project manager.”
Overall, management’s metrics for success might align with what the Scrum master is planning. Your job will depend on results, but how are those results being measured? Knowing before you accept the job may prove key.