Scrum Master - Common Interview Questions

Last post 01:05 pm June 16, 2020
by sunand sharma
9 replies
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06:33 pm October 30, 2019

Hi all,

My name is João Henrique. I'm working with Scrum for more than 4 years and as Scrum Master for more than 3 years.
Recently I got my PSM I certification and just receive contact from a respected company in Brazil to have an interview to work as Scrum Master.

As I never did a Scrum Master interview (I was nominated scrum master of my team), I'm studying some common question and I decided to list it here.
I hope it can help someone in the future and also it can be a good topic for discussion :)

If you have any comments in order to increase this knowledge and help people to be ready for an interview, please, also comment here!

Follows all the information I could gather so far:

Experience
    If you already have experience with scrum, try to demonstrate all knowledge, how you dealt with such situations, etc.
    Example:
        - How did you solve conflicts in your team?
        - Impediments that you removed and how you did that
        - How did you enforce the scrum or how did you teach it to your team/organization?
        - Different retrospective methods you already used and which one was the best
        - How did you help to create a self-organized team?
        - What are the necessary steps to do to verify if the scrum team is following the scrum
        - How did you solve organizational impediments?
        - Do all your sprints have the same length? It is mandatory to have the same length? 
        - If in the current sprint the velocity of the team was 80 story points and in the last sprint it was 100 Story points. If the P.O. asks why this drop, what would you do?
        - If you had to remove one Scrum event, which would you choose and why? (trick question)
        - How do you evaluate the scrum master role?
        - What should the scrum master do when the product owner is not agreeing?
        - How PO and Scrum Team deliver the product on time compare to Traditional Project Management? https://www.scrum.org/forum/scrum-forum/5799/how-po-and-scrum-team-deli…
        - Hiring and Firing in Scrum Teams: https://www.scrum.org/forum/scrum-forum/6071/hiring-and-firing-scrum-te…
        - Scrum Master Faciliatete, coach, mentor and teach: https://www.scrum.org/forum/scrum-forum/34167/scrum-master-facilitate-c…
        - Scrum Master accountability: https://www.scrum.org/forum/scrum-forum/14914/scrum-master-accountabili…

Practical Exercise
    There are companies that try to do an imagined scenario and evaluate how you handle it as Scrum Master.
    For example:
        - A client reported a problem in the app to the Product Owner in an app you are working on. How do you handle it?

Company
    It is always good to have some knowledge in the company you are attending the meeting.
    Example:
        - What does the scrum mean to the company?
        - What is the level of knowledge the company has in agile?
        - Do they provide training?
        - You can ask about the position, the company, etc.
        - It is good to know how the company is in the market
        - It is good to know the project they are working on.
        - You must be honest in your answers. If you don't know something, don't lie. There is no shame in saying "I don't know" or ask for help!
        
50 Typical Questions
    I was able to find a very good video on youtube that tells 50 most common Scrum Master questions.
    It is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCnWwJNTu9U&t=1096s
    
    Follows the questions:
    
    Basics
        1. What is Agile? Explain Agile in 2 Minutes
        2. When to use Agile Model? Is it suitable in all circumstances?
        3. State some major principles of Agile
        4. What is Scrum? How is it different from Waterfall?
        5. What is the scrum sprint? That is the ideal duration of a Sprint?
        6. What are the different roles involved in Scrum?
        7. What are the most important components of Agile?
        8. What is the role of a Scrum Master?
        9. What are the responsibilities of a Scrum Master?
        10. What is a Story Point? How do you calculate it?
        11. What is a Story Board in Scrum Framework?
        12. What is the Daily Stand-Up? What do these meetings entail?
        13. What are the three main artifacts of Scrum Process?
        14. What is a user story in Scrum? How does a good user story look?
        15. What are burn-up and burn-down charts in scrum?
        16. What does a scrum burndown chart comprise?
        17. Mention what is the object behind holding a Sprint retrospective meeting?
        18. List some popular agile frameworks? Do you know any other agile methodology apart from Scrum?
        19. Explain Velocity in Agile. How is velocity measured?
        20. What is a release candidate in Scrum?
        21. Explain what is scrum of scrums?
        22. List some of the popular project management tools that you have heard of.
        
    Advanced
        23/24. Do you know about Agile Manifesto and its Principles? Explain in brief
        25. What is empirical process control? How is Scrum based on that?
        26. What do you know about impediments in Scrum? Give some examples of impediments
        27. What are the qualities that should be present in a good Agile tester have?
        28. Mention some scenarios where using scrum is not suggested?
        29. Do you hold any agile certification? Why did you choose this certification?
        30. Are you a certified Scrum Master?
        31. Is it ever suggested to use Waterfall over Scrum? If yes, explain when
        32. What are the drawbacks of using scrum?
        33. How is agile different from the waterfall model?
        34. Are agile and scrum the same?
        35. What is the difference between Epic, User Stories, and Tasks
        36. What is the difference between iteration and sprint?
        37. What is the difference between a Sprint Planning Meeting and Sprint Retrospective Meeting?
        38. How is scrum different from other iterative models?
        
    Real World
        39. How would you introduce scrum to senior executives?
        40. What quality should a good Scrum Master have? What sort of person do you need to categorize yourself a great scrum master?
        41. What does servant leadership mean and give some examples of how scrum master fits as a servant leadership
        42. You are in the middle of a sprint and suddenly the product owner comes with a new requirement. What will you do?
        43. A member of scrum team doesn't want to attend the sprint planning meetings and considers it a waste of time. How do you deal with that kind of attitude?
        44. What is the main reason for the Scrum Master to be at the Daily Scrum?
        45. Your team is picking reasonable action items but is later not delivering on them. How do you handle this?
        46. One of the Agile Manifesto values says "People over processes" Isn't the Scrum Master role which enforces the "process" a contradiction?
        47. As a Scrum Master, how do you ensure that the Transparency, Inspection and Adaptation Scrum Pilars are being implemented by the team?
        48. How to measure if Agile Scrum is working in your team and organization?
        49. In case you receive a story on the last day of the sprint to test and you find there are defects, what will you do? Will you marke the story to done?
        50. Your team is constantly failing to meet commitments, and its performance velocity is volatile. What might the possible reason be? How would you address this issue?

04:17 pm October 31, 2019

My biggest suggestion would be to read the scrum guide prior to the interview. The types of questions they will ask will tell you how well they follow Scrum and how well they understand the actual role of the Scrum Master. My best interviews were the ones where I was given a marker and told to teach me Scrum in less than 5 minutes using the marker board in the room. 

I wouldn't worry with going through all of these 50 plus questions and preparing an answer for them. Read the Scrum Guide so you know Scrum and how to answer questions. Then prepare the typical "tell me about a time..." kind of questions. They will likely ask about team conflicts, when you failed as a SM, etc trying to get a gauge of your real-world experience. 

Best of luck!

11:10 pm October 31, 2019

Hi Curtis,

 

Thank you for sharing your point of view.

And you are right about that, since the candidate understand the Scrum Guide he/she will be prepared for all kind of questions, even the trick ones :)

 

> Best of luck!

Thank you! :)

12:14 pm November 1, 2019

Thank you very much!! 
I just started to learn and this is a great collection of questions to be conscious of.

05:51 pm November 1, 2019

I second Curtis. Focus entirely on the Scrum Guide. Many of those questions aren't good. They can easily reinforce a false understanding of Scrum and Agile. This is more true for the Real World section but it's littered throughout.

Here are some examples, but I encourage you to take a serious look at the validity of the questions and their wording:

Basic
13. What are the three main artifacts of Scrum Process? There aren't more than three so get 'main' out of there.
14. What is a user story in Scrum? How does a good user story look? Story/Story Point/Velocity are all not a part of Scrum and don't exist in the Scrum Guide. Try to understand why that is the case.
15. What are burn-up and burn-down charts in scrum? Also not a part of Scrum design.
        
Advanced
23/24. Do you know about Agile Manifesto and its Principles? Explain in brief. This is should be a part of Basic and probably question number 1 IMO Without this, there's no Scrum.
27. What are the qualities that should be present in a good Agile tester have? Scrum Masters are not managers of the Scrum Team so this isn't an appropriate question to ask one.
28. Mention some scenarios where using scrum is not suggested? Most people think a benefit of Scrum is to deliver Customer Value, but Scrum doesn't provide this...your product/services do. Better to know what the benefits of Scrum actually are before thinking about why you shouldn't use Scrum.
    
Real World
39. How would you introduce scrum to senior executives? Better question, how would you introduce Agile to senior executives?
42. You are in the middle of a sprint and suddenly the product owner comes with a new requirement. What will you do? Answer this to the best of your ability before checking out the Scrum Guide under Sprint Backlog. This isn't the only thing to consider when answering this question, but it's a start.
46. One of the Agile Manifesto values says "People over processes" Isn't the Scrum Master role which enforces the "process" a contradiction? All sorts of wrong with this question, so be able to identify what that is and why

02:27 am November 3, 2019

prepare the typical "tell me about a time..." kind of questions. They will likely ask about team conflicts, when you failed as a SM, etc trying to get a gauge of your real-world experience. 

This!

Also, please, get your PSM1 if you haven't already. It's really not that difficult and it will save you some blushes if they ask for simple Scrum framework knowledge. Because a) they will likely have someone interviewing you who already has it, and b) if not then even better, they will ask the kinds of questions where you can go into "teacher" and "change agent" stances. (Also, read Overeem's stances blog / whitepaper, it's gold.)

My general suggestions in terms of how to answer anything in such a role are: in general, focus not on what you think they want to hear, but on what you think they would benefit to be told. Be the clear and present proactive consultant, lean forward, look eager to help them. Ask questions about their circumstances and their agile journey and discuss their challenges. Make them the case study like you're already working there, instead of waiting for them to offer you one. If that makes sense.

Remember: they're not looking for a lackey, they're hiring someone who can help them achieve greatness!

 

I do have some gut reactions to a few of the questions, that I would not be afraid to use if people actually posed them like that. At least, if I have the presence of mind and the composure during an interview. It keeps stressing me out, no matter how confident I am up right to the moment they ask me to sit down, and no matter how often I've been on that hiring side of the table :) But if I feel good, I will respond in these kinds of ways.

> How did you enforce the scrum or how did you teach it to your team/organization?
"Whips and flogging, mostly! <grin> But seriously... It entirely depends on the people I'm trying to convince. Can you be more specific or would you like me to offer a few examples?"

> How did you solve organizational impediments?
"Well... That's complicated. Obviously there's no cookbook for that, or it'd have been solved already. I could offer a few examples if you like. But are you asking because your own teams are expressing things they consider impediments? Maybe we could discuss them?

> If you had to remove one Scrum event, which would you choose and why? (trick question)
"Well, if you had to remove one wheel from your motorbike, which one would you remove?"

> <any simple question that tests my verbatim knowledge of the scrum guide, i.e. PSM1 questions>
"Ha, that's a typical PSM1 question! Of course, it's <answer>. Do your people have your PSM1's? I offer trainings, you know... <wink>"

> How would you introduce scrum to senior executives?
"Introduce? I haven't met one in 20 years that didn't already know it. Or think they did, anyway <wink> So I like to start by asking them what they think about it, and see if they're willing to discuss insights or learn things. Then I take it from there."

09:33 pm November 4, 2019

Bouke, I hope you don't mind if I borrow your analogy!

> If you had to remove one Scrum event, which would you choose and why? (trick question)
"Well, if you had to remove one wheel from your motorbike, which one would you remove?"

I will substitute auto for motorbike, but I love the response!

10:54 pm November 4, 2019

Well, first I thought car as well, but then I thought weeeellll maybe you can limp on with three wheels and still get where you're going. We've all seen road videos from Russia, haven't we? :D

But come to think of it, maybe that's actually a better analogy. No one is saying you can't get anywhere if you don't do daily scrum - you just wouldn't be driving a car called Scrum and suddenly it matters much less how good your steering is or how powerful your engine is.

But yeah, by all means. Another way of putting it is saying: ok, say you're sitting on a kitchen chair with four legs. Which of those legs would you like removed?

05:18 pm November 5, 2019

That is also why I liked the auto analogy.   Removing a wheel doesn't render the auto immobile, but it sure doesn't drive as smoothly and efficiently as it did with 4 wheels.

07:11 pm June 12, 2020

Hello Friends , i am sharing my learning, in this video, with my recent interview with Royal Dutch Shell with all questions being asked during interview, please comment in video in case any kind of help is required for preparation of Scrum master interview, thanks

https://youtu.be/MwsQTqNPktM