The Scrum Master Interview Questions in this guide are meant to help you find people for your team who deliver results…
After more than 25 years in IT, and a lot of missed deadlines, I know the value of getting things done fast and right. For me, there are very few things in IT more demoralizing than a project that has dragged on longer than a bad Nicolas Cage Movie. And worst yet – it still has no end in sight! I want to help you avoid this problem.
Use these interview questions to make your life easier.
My hope is this guide helps you find someone who effectively gets your projects moving and done.
3 Scrum Master Interview Questions That Get The Best Hiring Results
Let’s not waste your time repeating the same questions everyone else is posting online. I’m giving you what I’ve learned works for me – directly from my own time-tested and real-world experiences.
- Whether you’re developing new applications on-premise; or in the cloud.
- Migrating existing applications from on-premise to the cloud.
- Creating a hybrid cloud with VMware vSphere and AWS.
These questions will test for critical management skills and experience that are necessary for delivering the best results.
Here’s some quick context for my questions before we dive in.
Scrum Masters are supposed to get things DONE.
In my Scrum Master Cert training more than 10 years ago, our trainer “Scrum Bob” was very insistent on everyone understanding the definition of done. Throughout the week of training, he repeated these sayings over and over and had everyone repeat them. Bob’s point is even more relevant in today’s super fast-paced world.
Done does not mean we’re done but have 1 more thing to do, or we’re done except for…blah, blah! Do you know the definition of DONE? DONE, means DONE. There’s nothing more to do…Scrum Bob
I’ve learned how important getting tasks completely done is and how small things can add up and destroy the best laid-out plan and timeline.
With that as our foundation, let’s get started.
Done, means Done!
People. Time. Complexity.
Question #1 is about managing people.
What should a Scrum Master do if they have a person on the team who isn’t doing their work or getting along with the team?
For example, they are not showing up to the stand-up meetings, or communicating with the team on their progress, or wanting to assist other members with their tasks to get the sprint done.
- First talk privately with the person and give them the alternative of shaping up and meeting expectations.
- Then talk with the persons’ manager and inform them of the issue.
- If the problem continues, replace them if they cannot adjust.
Scrum is not about the individual, it’s about the team.
It’s not football, where you have the quarterback handing the ball to a running back, or throwing to a wide receiver. As the image above shows, it’s a full team effort engaged in moving the ball i.e., the project forward. People who are not engaged as team players will drain important time off the clock and cause your sprints to miss their deadlines. When faced with people who are not a right fit for the team, after you’ve attempted to work with the person – the next step is to replace them ASAP. An experienced Scrum Master should know how to handle this, and who they should pick for their Scrum Team. As well as when to replace someone if they are not working out. Not everyone can adapt to Agile processes and not every Scrum Master can make this call. A Scrum Master needs to be able to make tough calls.
The key indicator here is to look for evidence that the interviewee can manage people.
Sprints are short and you need people on the team to work together and get the tasks assigned to them done.
Question #2 is about managing time.
You have a team of 5 people working on a code change that is taking longer to test than expected, what should you do?
For example, two people have finished their tasks and are waiting for their next task. One person is already working on a new task. You are having problems getting testers to help the other 2 with UAT.
- Before starting anything new you should finish the task in progress.
- If needed, undone tasks can be moved to another sprint.
- Use the free people to do the testing if you cannot find testers who are available.
Do you sense the interviewee understands that iteration is about getting things done, even if they are small? Or, if time keeps running out maybe they’re trying to do too much and should break it up into smaller tasks? The recommended length of a sprint is two weeks, which means you don’t have a lot of time.
This Scrum interview question is to determine the processes someone will follow if they are running out of time.
It is better to finish one thing on time than to have 3 things started and run out of time and nothing gets done.
Question #3 is about managing complexity.
What should you do if you have found your Scrum Team way over their heads with a sprint that seemed easy in the beginning, but has turned into something unexpected?
For example, do they understand what the standup meeting is for? Did anyone mention issues that should have been discussed? How did the under-estimation happen and how would they make sure it doesn’t happen again?
- Update the product manager that you will need to rewrite the story.
- Break it up into smaller tasks.
- Split it into more sprints.
- Try to make up the time by getting other tasks done faster.
Complexity is a measurement of how difficult a task will be to complete. Often egos will get in the way and people will overestimate their ability and underestimate the time it will take to complete something.
A skilled Scrum Master has enough experience to understand how complex something sounds (even if they’ve never experienced it). Hmm, that sounds hard!
Someone with experience is good at breaking complex tasks into smaller ones and sizing sprints so they get it done.
It’s important to find out during the interview process how someone manages people, time, and complexity.
These Scrum Master interview questions may not sound like much on the surface. But when asked to a prospective candidate, you will get an understanding of how people think and handle situations. Too often, interviews are more like a Cert exam and miss testing for real-world experience and skills that matter and produce results. Just because someone’s resume shows they’ve had a long list of PM jobs. And because they also have PMI and CSM Certs listed, it doesn’t mean they are good at leading a Scrum Team and dealing with SDLC or technical projects. You need to validate they can manage your project(s) and people.
People, time, and complexity are 3 areas where I’ve seen the majority of problems happen that stall or derail a project.
It’s easy to answer questions about Scrum processes. Getting things 100% done is what takes real skill.
The key takeaway of these Scrum Master interview questions is to find a person who can read people well, stay focused on the task at hand, and realize when they need help or need to make changes.
Bonus Questions for Scrum Master Interview Prep
Along with the crucial 3 questions above, here are more interview questions you should be ready to answer that demonstrate your Scrum Master general knowledge.
- What is a Scrum Master and how does one become a Scrum Master?
- What is the biggest benefit for the PM to have a Scrum Master?
- How much time does a Scrum Master spend on the project, outbound calls, and educating the team?
- What skill sets does a Scrum Master need to do their job?
- How do you balance the needs of the team and the Scrum Master?
- What does a Scrum Master do?
Want to become a Scrum Master? 🤔 Or improve your skills? Here’s a link to all the great Scrum Training Courses on Udemy.
Want more questions to review? Here’s another guide that covers Interview Questions for Technical Project Managers.