How to hire a Scrum Master? 81 Scrum Master Interview Questions to increase a probability of hiring the best person to your organization.
How to hire a Scrum Master? What kind of skills and characteristics you should look for if your organization is planning to adapt Agile Methodologies for Software Development? How to run the first groups of interviews with candidates and what kind of questions you should ask?
One of the first steps in recruitment process (after HR screening) is the phone or Face2Face interview. During those activities, it’s necessary to involve Scrum Masters, so they can assess candidate’s skills, Scrum/Agile knowledge or Project/Team fit; and HR representatives, who can get more information about one’s personality, reasons for applying to the job and check whether candidate fits to organization/company culture.
To have interviews structured well, it’s good to divide it into 5 sections:
- Scrum Framework Knowledge and Agile Mindset
- Previous Experience
- Organization/Project/Team Fit
- Traits/Characteristic of Scrum Master
- Real-Life Experience/Use Cases
For each group, we can specify some criteria/questions that could be useful to get to know the candidate better.
Examples of criteria/questions for each section during first interview:
1. Scrum Framework Knowledge and Agile Mindset
Criteria: Scrum Knowledge Level, Agile Mindset, Lean Approach to Process, Scrum Artifacts and Events, Metrics and Risks Mgmt, Team Mgmt Skills.
Example of questions:
1. What metrics do you track during Sprint? 2. How do you manage the process and help the team meet the Sprint Goal? 3. How do you manage risks in your projects?
4. What kind of techniques for running retrospective meetings are you familiar with? 5. What is the Sprint Refinement meeting? 6. How often do you organize Sprint Refinement meeting in your project? 7. Walk me through the purpose of the Sprint Refinement event? 8. Describe the structure of Sprint Review Meeting 9. What is DoD, DoR? 10. What is the best practice for creating DoD, DoR? 11. Explain what Scrum is to a person who didn’t have any experience in Scrum before.
12. What kind of Agile frameworks except from Scrum do you know? 13. Are you familiar with any Scaled Agile Frameworks like Nexus, SAFe, LESS? 14. Do you know what Value Stream Mapping and Lean Process Mapping are? 15. What are XP, BDD, ATDD and TDD?
16. List techniques of prioritizing User Stories. 17. What is your best practice for writing User Stories? 18. Give an example of User Story and Epic. 19. NFRs — what’s this and how to approach them? 20. Shall we involve NFRs in User Stories or rather in DoD? 21. What does acronym INVEST stand for? 22. What does SLICE criteria mean?
23. Are you a part of Scrum/Agile Community? 24. What books would you recommend to a person eager to start his/hers journey with Scrum? 25. What’s your favourite book about Scrum/Agile? 26. Do you read any Agile blogs?
27. How do you understand ‘Self-organizing’ concept in Scrum? 28. What are the characteristics of a good Scrum Team (T-shaped skills)?
2. Previous Experience
Criteria: Scale, Complexity and Types of Projects, Organization Approach to Agile, Collaboration with Business, Relationship with Dev Team.
Example of questions:
29. Why have you decided to become SM? 30. Describe your typical day at work as a Scrum Master. 31. How would Dev Team members describe you?
32. What was the size of the projects you worked on as a SM? 33. Did you have a chance to work with international teams? 34. Were your team co-located? 35. How big was your team?
36. What kind of Scrum Events did you have in your project? 37. Did you facilitate and attend all of them? 38. Were there any dependencies between teams? 39. Give me an example of a blocker from your project and how you resolved it.
40. What kind of tools did you use (JIRA, Rally, other)? 41. Did you use a physcial whiteboard?
42. What kind of columns have your team been using on Sprint Board? 43. Workflow of Sprint Board? 44. How did your Sprint Planning meeting look like (Who was attending it)? 45. How do you estimate User Stories?
46. Have you been involved in organizing any trainings about Agile/Scrum for business or other employees?
47. How do you communicate with stakeholders and people who don’t have any Agile experience? 48. How do you collaborate with PO?
3. Organization Project/Team Fit
Criteria: Understanding the Business/Technology developed in Company, Company/Project Culture, Current Project Challenges.
Example of questions:
49. What would you do during your first month if you were hired to our company? 50. Why did you decide to apply for this job? 51. What kind of project would you like to work on? 52. Describe your perfect company/organization culture.
53. Specific business knowledge that project is about. 54. Technical specification — what technology has been developed? 55. What kind of tech-stack do you know comparing to the one we’re using here?
56. The stakeholders are/have… (i.e. very waterfall way of thinking, very demanding, not very involved in the project). What would you do to change it?
57. The project is/has… (i.e. delayed 3 month, lots of dependencies, based on a very old technology). Do you find this appealing/challenging for you? Have you worked in the similar situation?
58. The Dev Team is… (i.e. not experienced in Scrum, not motivated, consists of very experienced people). What would you do to understand each other’s needs?
4. Traits/Characteristics of Scrum Master
Criteria: Servant Leader, Facilitator, Impediment Remover, Change Agent, Manager, Coach/Teacher/Mentor/Soft Skills.
Example of questions:
59. What is your understanding of SM role? 60. What kind of competencies one should have? 61. Descibe the perfect Scrum Master. 62. What are your strengths?
63. Give examples of impediments in your previous projects, and how did you resolve them?
64. Did you have a chance to lead any change in the organization? 65. Did you provide any trainings for organization/business?
66. Walk me through your Scrum Retro/Demo Session. 67. What is the purpose of Sprint Review session? 68. How do you manage Scrum process? 69. How do you prepare yourself to Sprint Planning session? 70. Can you give example of one of the Sprint Goals your team had? 71. Does your team has any ‘specific’ rituals?
72. What are the biggest challenges for your team now? 73. How do you ensure the team is improving every iteration?
74. How would you know your team is improving with every iteration? 75. How would you help the team to self-organize? 76. How do your help Dev Team meet the Sprint Goal?
77. What type of personality types does your team have? 78. How do you maintain good working relationship with Dev Team members?
5. Real life Experience/Use Cases
Criteria: Get understanding of how candidate thinks and behave in particular situations, Strong team player with the ability to influence, lead/collaborate, self-manage, take ownership, build relationships and drive solutions from inception to production.
Example of questions:
79. Product Owner doesn’t have any experience in Agile methodologies. He used to manage waterfall projects. He doesn’t want to participate actively in Scrum events like Sprint Planning, Sprint Review and be available for Dev Team during Sprints. What would you do to makre sure the Scrum process is being applied?
80. Your Dev Team works on very legacy software project. Unfortunately the team was set-up recently and don’t have appropriate knowledge about the old platform. So far, all Sprints have finished with very low velocity and without significant results. What would you do to help the team achieve a success?
81. You have been just hired as a new Scrum Master. The team you’re going to work with, doesn’t have any experience in Agile and is very sceptic about Scrum. They want to focus only on coding and don’t want to track their progress or attend any meetings… How do you influence and motivate them to use Scrum?
Interview shouldn’t last more than 1 hr. Next steps of the recruitment process could consist of:
- Interview run by one of the Dev Team member i.e. Tech Leader. Team can meet for the first time with candidate and understand if there is a good fit and they can understand each other.
- Assessment Centre. Ask your candidate to prepare and run Retrospective Session, Imaginary Planning Meeting or Learning Session about Scrum. During the meeting invite Dev Team members and HR assessors.
- Final Interview with Delivery Head and Scrum Master/Tech Leader. Validate and review the feedback from Assessment Centre and ask final questions to candidate.
It’s very important to involve the Dev Team, to which Scrum Master is going to serve as a leader, into the recruitment process. These people are going to be a one team in the end, so there MUST be a common understanding between them. Their cooperation would be crucial for a successful delivery of the product.