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12 HOW TO interview questions for Scrum Masters

These HOW TO interview questions are designed to test both the Scrum Master’s level of understanding of Scrum and their ability of using it effectively with the Scrum team. For each question, we provide a few important points that the interviewer is looking for in the answers.

How do you measure your success as a Scrum Master?

Looking for: understanding of main responsibilities of the Scrum Master; understanding of servant leadership; ability to relate the success of the Scrum Master to the success of the team.

Example: A successful Scrum Master should be able to answer this question with concrete examples of how they have helped their Scrum Team improve the application of the Scrum framework, increase performance, increase team cohesion and happiness, and increase the team’s effectiveness in delivering projects or building a product.

The team’s performance increase can be measured in several ways including an increase in average velocity (which measures amount of work completed), reduction in lead time or cycle time (which indicates the team’s effectiveness at getting work done), reduction in defects (which indicates an increase in quality of the work), and increase in the team’s happiness (which correlates to team cohesion and collaboration, and is regarded a leading indicator for team performance), or an increase in value delivered (measured by actual value delivered to customers or to the business by the work the team has done. Note: this is not the amount of work delivered, this is actual outcomes achieved.)

How do you know that your work is helping the team become more effective?

Looking for: The Scrum Master’s understanding of their responsibilities and key indicators of team’s effectiveness.

Example: The Scrum Guide defines the key responsibility of the Scrum Master as helping the team improve its effectiveness. This translate to many different indicators including an increase of average velocity, an increase of quality of the product or reduction of defects, faster cycle times, and an increase in team happiness or reduction of conflict.

How can you manage risks with Scrum?

Looking for: Understanding that at its core Scrum helps to identify and reduce risks earlier in the process (compared to traditional fixed planning) by delivering solutions incrementally.

How can you estimate an User Story?

Looking for: an understanding of the Developer’s right and responsibility to estimate work; also, understanding of what estimates represent.

How do you explain story points to a new Scrum team?

Looking for: understanding of relative estimation compared to absolute estimation, and the use of story points to represent relative effort rather than absolute time.

How would you help the team to raise the bar, so as to help them to continuously improve?

Looking for: knowing that there is no silver bullet to fixing all teams, and every team is unique; understanding the need to experiment with different techniques; using the Retrospective effectively to help the team take ownership of their improvement and identify action items.

How would you help the team to identify possible improvements in their Engineering practices?

Looking for: confidence with technical/engineering language and techniques; understanding that the Scrum Master does not need to be an expert, but should guide the team in implementing the right practices for their own improvement.

How would you encourage your team to embrace self-organization?

Looking for: attitude of servant leadership rather that command and control; examples of practices to empower the team to become more self-organizing and taking ownership of decisions.

How would you help your team use the Daily Scrum effectively when they seem to find it a waste of time?

Looking for: understanding of the Daily Scrum’s purpose; ability to guide the team towards self-improvement.

Example: The Scrum Master may hold a focused Retrospective on the Daily Scrum and guide the team to discuss what works and what doesn’t in the Daily Scrum, and how to achieve its purpose in other ways.

How do you help your team resolve impediments?

Looking for: ability of Scrum Master to support the team in identifying and removing impediments to grow their effectiveness; also, understanding of the difference between fishing for the team, and teaching them how to fish.

How can you help the Product Owner do refinement better?

Looking for: understanding of key responsibility of Product Owner in terms of managing the Product Backlog; understanding of meaning of refinement activities.

Example: Help the Product Owner learn and understand how to manage and refine the Product Backlog. Schedule a weekly meeting between the PO and the Developers to do refinement together, get a read-ahead of the Product Backlog items for the next 2-3 Sprints, and estimate the work items. If the team has external dependencies on other teams, invite key team members from the other team to participate in refinement.

How do you help your team implement changes to the way they work?

Looking for: effective use of the Retrospective as an opportunity to identify action items for improvement; responsibility of Scrum Master to follow through and check the team is implementing the action items agreed upon; empower the team to be more self-organizing.

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