Scrum Master Interview Questions You Should Be Asking

If your organization is transitioning to the Scrum framework, and you’re doing it right, you’re likely planning to bring a Scrum Master on board. The first step is the easy part–eliminating random CVs that have zero experience in Scrum. Now, it’s time to compare those that are certified as a Professional Scrum Master (PSM) or a Certified Scrum Master (CSM). The good news–you’ll likely have plenty of candidates from which to choose. The bad news–the majority of them aren’t worth your time.

Without a lot of experience in Scrum it’s sometimes hard to recognize the bad apples. Here, we explain what interview questions to ask and the answers you should look for.

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How do a project manager and a Scrum Master differ?

The answer to this question will indicate the extent to which your job candidate has internalized the Scrum framework.

Traditional business practices are oriented around projects leading to deliverables. A project manager is, in essence, somebody whose focus is on ensuring that a given project is successful. Project managers focus on risk analysis, budgets, project scope, communication between stakeholders, and timelines for delivery.

A Scrum Master, by contrast, focuses on the Scrum Team and its ability to self-manage a project. Scrum Masters ensure that Scrum theory is being understood and acted on by the various members of the team in support of self-management. They work to ensure that Scrum Teams are effective in completing Sprint Goals and Increments that culminate in the Product Goal. 

What’s the difference between Agile and Scrum?

The answer to this question will reveal whether or not a job candidate understands the difference between a popular framework for agile delivery and an overarching concept. People new to the agile delivery space often confuse “Agile” with Scrum, or worse–use the terms interchangeably.  

What are the financial impacts if Scrum is done correctly?

This question is a good way to prompt a putative Scrum Master to think big, and to test whether or not they realize the potential benefits they may be able to impart to your organization. You want to make sure your interviewee understands the weight of their role to live up to this potential.

What does a Scrum Master do all day? Is this really a full-time job with one team?

The answer to this question will likely indicate if they truly understand that this role is not to annoyingly look over the shoulders of the team–it’s helping to guide them toward becoming highly self-managed, resilient, and adaptable while delivering on business goals. Remember: Scrum is based on empirical process control and lean thinking. 

What is the relationship of company leadership to the Scrum Master?

It’s written in the 2020 version of the Scrum Guide “Scrum Masters are true leaders who serve the Scrum Team and the larger organization”. How is this different from the structured and organizationally defined leaders of your organization? 

Organizations that adopt Scrum for the right reasons do so to accomplish business goals better than they could before. Leaders of such an organization should be working with Scrum Masters, and visa versa, as a team. Scrum Masters have a different focus than organizational leaders. They serve as the resident experts on Scrum and help build enhanced delivery capabilities from the ground up. 

How would you explain what Done means and why it’s important?

This is a crucial question to ask since building Done increments every Sprint is one of the most important things a Scrum Team can do.

Projects typically require a checklist at the end which must be fully ticked off to be considered “finished” and off your plate. Good Scrum Masters should know quite clearly the point of Done increments and how they reduce risk and deliver value far faster than large batch waterfall projects can.

How do you update your burndown charts?

This is a bit of a trick question. Burndown charts are an extremely effective way to monitor progress during a Sprint or even toward a larger objective. However, the responsibility to manage progress toward a Sprint Goal falls on the developers. If the developers choose to create and maintain one that is their choice. 

What is an example of a Product Goal and Sprint Goals? How are they different?

Product Goals and Sprint Goals are integral to any complex problem utilizing Scrum to solve it. A good Scrum Master knows the Scrum Team is a complex solution provider. Not a hamburger order taker. Scrum Masters should know how to identify worthy Product Goals. 

Get the Answers

Much like any interview, answers from potential Scrum Masters can vary. But, if they truly understand Scrum and the role it plays in any organization’s product development efforts, their response will be more specific. 

Responsive Advisors’ are expert Scrum Masters who not only continue to help guide organizations through Agile transformations, but also utilize their skills to help others lead their own teams or become Scrum Masters themselves. They have a knack for recognizing imposters who claim the title but have no idea what they are doing. Their answers to these questions are exactly what to look for when interviewing.

Looking to get the full answers to these questions to easily weed out the catfish Scrum Masters? We’ve got you covered. Download our full guide to the answers you should be looking for in our guide below.

Robert Pieper

Robert Pieper has been a licensed Professional Scrum Trainer since 2014 and National Public Speaker since 2013. Robb holds an MBA from Marquette University and an Electrical Engineering Degree from Milwaukee School of Engineering. Robb has 15 years of professional software development experience with a passion for making Scrum work delivering real products and services
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