Scrum is the new black.
The first implementation of scrum took place way back in 1993 so it is not a particularly new project management framework but it sure is popular at the moment.
At its core scrum is a framework that fosters collaboration and giving a team (usually of developers) the tools and free-reign to self-organise while working on tasks.
Right in the middle of this self-organising team is the Scrum Master. It is the Scrum Master’s job to act as a facilitator and blocker remover for the members of the team.
Scrum Master roles can be quite high paying so there are usually many candidates for any open positions. Getting a job as a Scrum Master is therefore quite tough, and the process can be fairly intense.
This article today is going to look at the Scrum Master job application, and in particular the interview process.
First we will look at some SM specific tips that you can use when in the interview. Then we are going to dive into the best method for answering interview questions (and also how not to answer interview questions!) Then finally we are going to round off by looking at some of the more popular Scrum Master interview questions that you can be asked and see some example answers.
Scrum Master Interview Tips
Lean heavily on your experience – Follow the B-STAR process (discussed further below) and refer back to your previous role regularly. Show the interviewer that you are very well acquainted with the subject matter at hand.
Name drop the processes, systems and tools you have used – If you are telling a story about a sprint or a project you worked on name drop the software you used (MS Projects, JIRA, etc.). If you are explaining how you did stakeholder management discuss how you utilised a RACI Matrix. Basically pepper your answers with Scrum Master vernacular. Make sure it comes across naturally though.
Tailor your answers to the organisation – Learn all you can about the organisation that is interviewing you. You particularly want to know:
- What are their current, past and future projects?
- What is the level of their PMO, what processes/methodologies do they use, what are they looking to use going forward?
- What software and tools do they use day-to-day?
When answering your questions try to showcase your experience that you have in the above areas. For example if you learn that they have completed numerous waterfall projects automating business processes but are looking to move into an Agile delivery then you talk about how you have experience with Agile and in automating business processes.
How Best To Answer Scrum Master Interview Questions
Unless the question you are asked is a straight ‘up or down / yes or no’ style question then you are going to need to learn to describe, expand and elaborate on your answers. The best way of doing this is to follow the B-STAR technique for answering interview questions.
Answers using this method follow the below structure:
B – Belief – What are your thoughts and feelings with regard to the subject matter? – As a Scrum Master you should have your own set of philosophies and processes that you tailor to each situation.
S – Situation – What was going on? Briefly explain the scenario that was taking place. – Try not to spend too much time describing the situation. The bulk of your answer needs to be about you and what you did so keep the situation simple to understand and even simpler to describe.
T – Task – What was your role in the action? Most of the time it is best that you are taking an active rather than passive role in the encounter – You are going for a Scrum Master role (presumably) so the situation you describe should have you in a leadership role in delivery.
A – Activity (or action) – What did you do? Detail the steps you took and why you took them. – This should take up the bulk of your time answering the question.
R – Result – How did everything end up? Try to use figures if possible (e.g. we cut costs by $3m, customer satisfaction scores increased 25%, failures reduced to zero, ice cream parties increased ten-fold).
Remember though that the B-STAR technique is descriptive not prescriptive. You do not need to follow this flow strictly, go with what is best for your answers and that will allow you to put your point across and show your experience the best.
What You Should Not Do When Answering Questions
Do not avoid the question.
Do not describe a failure (unless specifically asked).
Do not downplay the situation.
Do not overhype the situation.
Do not say you have no experience with the subject matter.
Do not reject the premise of the question.
Do not have a passive role in the situation.
Do not give a one-sentence answer.
Do not overly describe the scenario and miss the action.
Scrum master Interview Questions
What is Scrum? (describe in layman’s terms) / what are the different roles within Scrum?
What are the responsibilities of the Scrum Team?
What are the differences between Agile and Scrum / what is meant by Agile
What is meant by Sprint in Scrum?
What are Scrum artefacts?
What are the three pillars of scrum?
What are the Scrum values? / What do you mean by Sprint in Scrum?
Who is a Scrum Master? And what does he/she do?
What do you mean by user stories in Scrum? What are the advantages of using them?
What are Some drawbacks to using Scrum? / What are some risks in Scrum? How are they handled?
What are the key skills of a Scrum Master?
How can conflict be dealt with within the Scrum Team?
What is a product owner?
How to deal with Score Creep?
How can you coordinate between multiple teams?
What are the Scrum values?
How would you deal with a difficult stakeholder?
How can a Scrum Master contribute to the sprint planning process?
Should the Scrum team be involved in the product discovery process? If so, how?
What is the structure of a good user story?
What is the Scrum Master’s role during the Daily Scrum?
What would you do if a team member is unable to complete a task for a sprint? / How would you motivate team members? / What would you do if the project is running behind schedule?
How would you deal with a difficult stakeholder?
What is your experience in this industry?
Do you have any questions for us?