How to Interview A Scrum Master

One of the common questions that we get at agilityIRL is, “How do we find good Scrum Masters?” One of the crucial steps in hiring for any role is the interview. In this blog, I want to provide you with some of my favorite Scrum Master interview questions and techniques. This entry is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to interviewing a Scrum Master, but instead give you a place to start from the perspective of both approach and questions.

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As you approach interviewing candidates to fill the Scrum Master accountability recognize, first and foremost, that the Scrum Master is a team-based role. A good Scrum Master exists for the Team. As such, the Team should drive the interview process. While a recruiter may want to do a basic screening, the Team should be at the center of the process. They should select the questions, deliberate on the candidates and have the ultimate authority on which candidate to select.

In interviewing a potential Scrum Master, I like to begin the interview with a simple exercise. I provide the candidate with a marker, a whiteboard and ten minutes and ask them to teach me Scrum. Of the core stances of being a good Scrum Master is that of teacher. Not only am I evaluating their ability to teach during the exercise, but I am also seeing what they know about the framework. How do they view the role of the Scrum Master? How many Product Owners do they believe a Scrum Team needs? Are they using “command and control” type language or are they deferring to the Team?

Once they have finished teaching me Scrum, I then focus on conflict. As a change agent, a Scrum Master should constantly be in conflict. When I say “conflict” here, I don’t mean destructive or interpersonal conflict, but instead productive conflict. I am interested in understanding what’s their most recent example of conflict. How did they decide to engage in it? What made them believe that the Team and the organization were ready to confront this change? How did they resolve it? What is the current status of the relationships involved?

Following our discussion of conflict, I like to focus on how the candidate is continuing to learn and develop as an individual. Good Scrum Masters, good Agilists, are lifelong learners. What are they currently reading? What book has had the most impact on them? What tabs are open on their laptop right now? How do they grow their skills and practice their craft?

As part of the interview process, the Team should seek to see the candidate in action. Some ideas include asking them to:

• Facilitate a mock Sprint Retrospective
• Facilitate a mock Daily Scrum
• Engage in a coaching scenario

This allows the Team to evaluate the Scrum Master’s ability to facilitate and/or coach – two additional core responsibilities fulfilled by the accountability.

I also like to have the candidate discuss how they have transformed the teams and the organizations that they have served. With what level of the organization do they engage? Are they comfortable talking to a CIO? Can they facilitate a conversation between two Vice-Presidents arguing for their priorities with the Product Owner?

Great Scrum Masters are crucial not only to the development of the Team, but also the organizations that they serve. Taking the steps outlined in this entry will help you find great candidates.

As always, don’t hesitate to give us a shout if we can be of any help!