I have interviewed about 150+ candidates for Scrum Masters being on the panel for different companies and have built an understanding about how good scrum master candidate could probably approach to their Scrum Master interview. Read more about Scrum Master Interview Questions and Answers.
Today most companies don’t give chance to their people to become Certified Scrum Masters and want to experience Scrum Masters from other companies as if God create ones and send you ready-made. Also, the challenge with candidates is they feel they must have an active Certified Scrum Master experience to get selected.
First and foremost your conduct during the interview is the mirror of your capabilities. A Certified Scrum Master supposed to be a
- Good Listener
- Appropriately truthful (So that people trust you)
- Down to earth (As servant leaders don’t really show off)
- Open minded (Not aggressive about what they do can’t go wrong)
- An effective facilitator
- Lead by example
And if you are able to showcase your capabilities during the interview, the half of the battle is won. Certified Scrum Master is not a Super Hero who just saves the world in minutes and hence you should be reasonable with your interview questions & answers too and at times it’s fine if you do not know a perfect answer to a situation. But you should not miss the ethics, values and core knowledge of Scrum. Inspect and adapt is the backbone of Agility and you can show this.
If you made a mistake during interview, correct it later– you are showing agility in place of hiding it of defending your answer and creating the wrong impact.
The Hidden Truth:
The majority of candidates I met generally dint have the real experience as active Scrum Master but they showcased as active Scrum Master experience. Today there is an absolute scarcity of really good candidates for Scrum Master as if the god don’t make it anymore but due to lack of understanding of agility by the organization as well as people equally. I don’t mind if the person says he don’t have real experience but was a leader in fostering Scrum Principles and Values and showcase the knowledge of scenario in place of faking it and getting caught.
Certified Scrum Master should have system thinking and hence even if he/she is not aware of technical aspects of a tool like Jira is fine but the underlying purpose of the tools should be understood.
I always believe “a fool with a tool is still a fool” and I think most of you also believe in it.
Preparation to do before Interview –
- Be thorough with Scrum Guide
- Flashback – think about your Scrum career – challenges, successes, failures and how you or your scrum master could have handled it (Refer it to the Scrum Guide concepts)
- Retrospect about your failures & if asked showcase it in a manner that you learnt something from it.
32 Scrum Master Interview Questions and Answers:
Here are a few frequently asked most important Scrum Master Interview questions and answers that will help you for how to prepare for your Scrum Master Interview:
What are Scrum Masters overall responsibilities?
The Scrum Master:
- Is responsible for promoting and supporting Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide. Scrum Masters do this by helping everyone understand Scrum theory, practices, rules, and values.
- Acts as a servant-leader for the Scrum Team.
- Helps those outside the Scrum Team understand which of their interactions with the Scrum Team are helpful and which aren’t.
- It helps everyone change these interactions to maximize the value created by the Scrum Team.
In simple words, SM is a person who believes in Scrum Values and processes and motivates everyone to follow it and creates an environment for everyone to follow it.
How does the Scrum Master help the Product Owner?
Product Owner is served by Scrum master in the following ways:
- Make sure goals, scope & product domain are understood by everyone on the Scrum Team as well as possible;
- Helping the Scrum Team understand the need for clear and concise Product Backlog items;
- Finding techniques for effective Product Backlog management; eg – different Prioritization techniques like MoSCoW & Requirement breaking and Business value allocation techniques
- Helping know how to do product planning in an empirical situation;
- Making sure that Product Owner knows the ways to arrange the Product Backlog to maximize product & business value
- Understanding and practicing agility &
- Facilitating Scrum events as requested or needed. (Makes sure events happen and inappropriate way & help course correction & coach if required)
What is a “user story” in Scrum?
A user story is a tool used in Agile software development that captures the description of a feature from an end-user perspective. It describes, among others, the type of users and their motivations. A user story creates a simplified description of a user’s requirements.
What are the main artifacts of the Scrum Framework?
There are three main artifacts in SCRUM:
- Product Backlog
- Sprint Backlog
- Product Increment
What do you understand by the term Sprint? What is its duration?
A Sprint is heart of Scrum. Sprint is a time boxed container which has all 4 mandatory events Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review & Retrospective. It’s a repeatable event of maximum 1 month or less during which Team delivers a potentially releasable software or solution.
During the Sprint:
- No changes are made that would endanger the Sprint Goal
- Quality goals do not decrease
- Scope may be clarified and re-negotiated between the Product Owner and Development Team as more is learned
Each Sprint may be considered a project with no more than a one-month horizon. Like projects, Sprints are used to accomplish something. Each Sprint has a goal of what is to be built, a design and flexible plan that will guide building it, the work, and the resultant product increment.
Sprints are limited to one calendar month. When a Sprint’s horizon is too long the definition of what is being built may change, complexity may rise, and risk may increase. Sprints enable predictability by ensuring inspection and adaptation of progress toward a Sprint Goal at least every calendar month. Sprints also limit risk to one calendar month of cost.
The Product Owner focuses on the success of the product, ensuring the business value of it. Their main responsibility is to identify and refine the Product Backlog items. Product Owner is the voice of customer for Team and represents customer often. PO keeps product Backlog up to date and guides team on when to deliver what part of Product Backlog.
How does the Scrum Master serve the organization?
- By helping in Scrum adoption in the organization.
- Acting as a catalyst and change agent for Scrum adoption in Org.
- Catalyzing changes that can help the team, be more productive sprint by sprint.
- Fostering culture of continuous improvement sprint by sprint in team and organization.
- Supporting Agile leadership principles, leading to organizational transformation.
- Helping other Scrum Masters to increase the effectiveness of Scrum implementation in their teams and organization.
Why is using Agile frameworks necessary in today’s world?
- It helps in rapid & iterative delivery of useful software hence giving customer the competitive advantage.
- Due to self-organization and empowerment given to technical teams innovation is exercised comparatively more
- The profitability increases due to early delivery
- If the market is not conducive to the product – we get early feedback and the business can take a decision to No-Go or Pivot or change the product direction.
- Face to face conversation reduces documentation overheads and delays and also foster quality
- Scrum is a simple iterative framework which comprises of 3 roles, 4 events, 3 artifacts and few rules which believe in delivery of product features or solution in iterative, incremental manner.
- The iteration is called as SPRINT and is mostly of a month or less where teams deliver a potentially releasable solution at the end to the user/customer.
- Scrum believes in ownership culture and gives Team the freedom of choosing how much to plan to deliver in a sprint however the What is decided by Product Owner.
I have mix of features as well as defects being planned in every sprint? Defects being from field can come anytime. How do we deal with this?
The catch: This is a tricky situation – if you say that you will accept defects midway you are playing with change of sprint goal mid of the sprint which is a No-No and if you say you won’t accept defects midway then you are not solving the business problem.
Answer: There are multiple options
a) Scenario 1: I can have 2 different teams – 1 for Feature Development and other for defect fixing. (Ideal)
b) Scenario 2: Based on the trend of defects, I can limit my planned features and leave the scope for defects handling. This way you are not playing with Sprint Goal
c) Scenario 3: Reduce the sprint length if the defects SLA is not too short like something below a week to accommodate incoming defects in next sprint.
• You can go through a Scrum Master Certification or Kanban KMP1 Certification and KMP2 Certification will give you in depth knowledge. Read more about Scrum master interview questions.
What are the main tools you have used in a Scrum project?
Ideally, Scrum does not suggest or justify usage of tools but there are quite a few tools which helps Iterative implementation and those are
- Simple Excel (Customized as per need)
- Atlassian JIRA.
- Version One.
- RTC Jazz
How a Scrum Master track the progress of a Sprint?
There are multiple tools like Burn up, burn down but most famous is Burn down charts. Here we check daily the amount of work remaining compared to the planned. Here in below burn down chart the Orange line is ideal burn down rate per day required to finish things on time and gray like is the actual remaining to finish things recorded every day, especially during the Daily Scrums.
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What is time boxing in Scrum?
Time boxing means allotting a fixed unit of time for an activity. So the time is over activity is over – irrespective of the result. This brings in discipline, predictability and creates a situation for inspect and adapt. Every event in Scrum is time boxed which Must not be extended like Sprint, Daily Scrum etc.
When do we exercise canceling a Sprint? Who can cancel a Sprint?
Cancellation of a sprint is generally a rare case as there are losses associated with it. Cancellation seems viable only in case of the Sprint Goal is no more valid and changes cannot be finished in the given sprint. A Sprint can be canceled before the Sprint time box ends & only the Product Owner can cancel the sprint. In case of cancellation, the DONE PBI’s (PBI = Product Backlog Items) are marked done and remaining goes back to PB. After this we plan for new sprint.
Issues: This can be a little impractical in case if there are multiple teams working together on the same Product and all the teams are dependent on each other. However, the situation sensitivity needs to be exercised in such cases.
How is estimation in a Scrum project done? What are the techniques used for estimation?
Estimation can be done using any available estimation techniques such as Function Points, Wideband Delphi etc. and Scrum has no recommendation for this. However a relative estimation technique like Planning Poker estimation has been widely used across multiple companies and is very popular.
What are the roles involved in the Scrum framework?
A Scrum framework has three roles:
- Scrum Master
- Product Owner
- Development Team
There are no other roles than these but beyond Product organization, they can have other organizational roles too. Scrum does not speak anything on these roles and this depends on organization to organization.
What is the purpose of a Daily Scrum?
Daily Scrum is 15 minute sync up for the team which happens the same time – the same location every day. It helps the team self-organize towards their sprint goal and set the context for the day’s work. It is an inspect and adapt meeting where they inspect if the progress towards sprint goal is good and adapt if any changes required. This sync up event sets the tone for the day and reduced the need for any more meetings throughout the day.
Scrum Master makes sure this event happens and helps the team understand how to do a Daily Scrum effectively.
How do you deal with scope creep in Scrum or Agile Teams?
Any incomplete work getting postponed to the next sprint is called scope creep if it happens regularly. The work gets postponed to the upcoming sprints and we never catch up. This can be due to many factors like
- Unclear requirements accepted in Sprint
- Skills not available
- Definition of Done is not clear
- No intermediate and immediate Demo to PO and last minute changes suggested
- Acceptance criteria keep changing
- Silos in requirement implementation in place of combined ownership
- Improper or no Backlog refinement
To prevent it:
- A proper and effective retrospective to understand the root causes and eradicate the top reasons for creep
- The requirements must be clearly specified with acceptance criteria
- Daily progress monitoring by team during Daily Scrum.
- Effective backlog refinement of sprint backlog must be done.
- Combined ownership of features/stories so that we focus on work completion than individual ownership and silos
Can we apply Kanban in place of Scrum?
Philosophies behind both frameworks are quite different. Kanban believes in delivering as soon as possible and it does not have time boxes like Sprints. However, Scrum believes in Time box oriented free collaboration among team members to come out with innovative solutions and work items. Scrum does not believe in Silos however Kanban may have silos.
Kanban focuses on WORK and Scrum focuses on Collaborative interaction among team members. Scrum speaks about mandatory roles and responsibilities however Kanban do not speak anything on roles so the implementation aspects are different.
• TO DO: You can do TKP (Team Kanban Practitioner Certification) and KMP1 (Kanban Management Professional) or KMP2 certification courses to know more on KANBAN and CSM (Certified Scrum Master Certification) or LSM certification courses to learn more or if you can spend time read books and try implementation
What is MVP & MMP?
An MVP is set of minimum requirements or features with which it looks like the product if shipped can be used by the users well and they feel the major value is delivered. However MMP is the minimal set of a requirement that is ready to be shipped to market and can be marketed that guarantees the usefulness to the customer. MMP is fully realized version however MVP may the one which is not fully ready for market but estimated to be valuable if completed and released.
Example MMP: www.redbus.com released the first version without capability of billing and disbursal of tickets. The caveat here is you must validate that this minimum feature product solves few major problems for the users and they feel it’s good for us. So with Red bus even without payment capability, the users were able to see the buses details and send info about with bus they want to book and bus operators used to call them and reserve seats. SO the major problem of travel and communication hassle was solved.
MVP: Imagine Red bus is ready with the code and can be released however they do not have the real Bus data that can be used by users for booking then they have an MVP but not MMP.
What is the major advantage of using Scrum?
- Early & continuous feedback which fosters inspect & adapt
- Early delivery to markets
- Increases communication between business and implementer reducing the scope for defects
- Technology and business are aligned and hence cost reduction
What does DoD mean? How can this be achieved?
Definition of Done is the checklist of activities that need to be completed in order to call the Product Backlog Item (requirements) DONE so that it can be part of potentially releasable increment. This is common understanding between the PO and Dev Team. This is generally formulated at the start of the first sprint and which can be enhanced later on as the understanding of the Scrum team enhances.
What is the term velocity in Scrum?
Velocity is the average size of DONE requirements (Stories or any form of requirement) successfully delivered by the team every sprint in the past. Generally, it is calculated by averaging all the story points from the previous Sprints. It works as a guideline for the team to understand the number of stories they can do in a Sprint on an average.
What are traits of a good scrum master?
- A servant leader
- Who puts teams needs ahead of his/her
- Who fosters leadership in team
- A good impediment resolver
- Patient listener
- Coach to individuals and team
- A protector for team
- An effective facilitator
How do I handle bigger teams?
There are multiple approaches to it. Scrum has given SoS (Scrum of Scrums Model) which is very simplistic or there are quite a few situation specific and proven models like
- SAFe ( Scaled Agile Framework )
- And many more
We can use anything suitable or even customize one for ours based on need and taking learning’s from above.
Scrum@Scale by Jeff Sutherland (Co-Creator of Scrum)
What is Waterfall Method?
Waterfall Model was the first process model to be introduced. The Waterfall Model is a linear sequential life cycle model which is very easy to understand and use. The key principle on which the waterfall model emphasizes is only after the completion of one phase, the working team are allowed to begin with another phase. The Waterfall model is mostly preferred for small projects and there are no uncertain requirements.
Waterfall Model has six different phases for product development. And every phase must be and should be completed before starting with another phase. So, let’s dive in and read different stages of Waterfall Model Suggests.
The very first phase of the Waterfall model emphasizes on the collection of things which are required for the software development and then documenting it for further use.
This very phase of the waterfall model studies the requirement and with the help of that system design is prepared. This phase also helps to specify the hardware and software parts and helps to plan the overall architecture.
In the implementation phase of the waterfall model, the system is developed with small programs called units who are later integrated with the further process of software development.
Integration and Testing:
In this phase of the waterfall model, the units which are developed in the Implementation phase are further Integrated after testing of each individual unit. After all the units are integrated into the system, final testing is done to check if the work processed is up to the expected parameters.
Once all kind of testing is done and if the results are satisfactory, the system is further deployed in the customer environment for the service and its use.
To cope up with the client environment, the maintenance phase is their who provide regular feedback and help to fix the issues and patches which come up with the product and software.
When should you use the Waterfall Method over Scrum Method?
Waterfall method and the Scrum method can be used hand in hand to get the maximum desired output with the collaborative approach. But at times, there is a need when you need to go with the waterfall method despite of the Scrum method or their collaborative approach.
The waterfall method is the simplest approach to the software development process while Scrum is specially designed to have long term effect with complex integration of its principle. So here are some of the places where one needs to prefer waterfall method over scrum method.
When the project is simple:
The waterfall method is the best possible process to use for simple project development and implementation. Unlike big projects which need teams building with a cross-functional collaborative approach and appropriate use of Agile Methodology, Waterfall method should be preferred to have a simple approach for the small projects.
When the project is complicated:
Waterfall method can be preferred for complicated projects. But the thing which makes appropriate use of the Waterfall method with complicated projects are expertise hands. Expertise hands are best to analyse the complications of a project and with approach of the waterfall model, they can design a simple and subtle approach to develop the projects.
To focus on delivery date and budget:
If with the development of software budget there comes a deadline then the waterfall method should be preferred over any other. The deadlines can be the delivery date of product or with the budget of software development or on the focused approach of performance the developed software.
When Investment is not risky:
The software development cycle is a long process and the risk of investment needs to get configured accordingly with the need. But with the software development method where investment is not risky and they have a path for the simplest approach, the Waterfall method needs to be preferred at first for the development process.
Scrum Masters play a veritable role in development and deployment of Software Projects. The need for Scrum Master is soaring high in the market with the evolution of Scrum Framework into much use.
The prerequisites and responsibilities of a Scrum Master are very broad. From managing the team and leading them to being an interface between the product owner and development team, the roles of Scrum Master needs to be configured and analysed very carefully.
To get yourself recognized as a good and expert Scrum Master one needs to get trained at first. Scrum Framework is a lightweight model but to master the model always remains a tough task to do. And so for the same one needs to get trained under an expert hand who delivers the exact concepts of Scrum Framework into use for the working process.
The trainers take you through every insight of how to deploy the principles of Scrum Framework into use. This includes covering all the activities and information needed for the role of Scrum Master with the depth knowledge of every section and stages. And so for the same getting yourself certified is a must need.
The certification of Scrum Master gives a detailed view of the structure and working of the Scrum Framework. It helps the Scrum Master to manage the team accordingly and deliver results of high-quality value.
Learning every single step under Scrum Certification course helps the Scrum Master to react to the blockages and backlogs very quickly and get this things resolved at an efficient pace.
With the growth and success of Scrum Framework into the working environment of Software industry with time, outlook and reach for Scrum Master has grown exponentially with time and demand for Scrum Masters are soaring high with the time.
Is there a difference between Agile Methodology and the Scrum Framework:
Scrum Framework is itself an approach of Agile Methodology for product development. Agile is a long term process and Scrum is a slow term process. So going with the Scrum makes work more process more efficient by breaking the system into sprints. These Sprints help in delivering quality product in a short time period and adds the value for the subtle approach with Agile Methodology. Their collaborative approach not only gives quality product but also helps to remove blockages very easily with high efficiency.
Agile and scrum are two different approaches and so here are some differences between features of both of them:
Agile development is based on the iterative and incremental approach and with Scrum Framework it is implemented a way with which incremental builds are delivered to customer every 2-3 weeks.
- Agile gives a leader and Scrum is mostly dependent on self-organised cross-team functioning. Eventually when both have a collaborative approach to product development high-quality product is delivered.
- Agile is rigid method while Scrum Framework is rather a flexible approach.
- Agile asks for a simple design and execution of software product but Scrum fosters innovative and incremental approach.
- The most elementary measure of progress in the Agile Method is working software but with Scrum, working software is not a priority.
- Customer competitive advantage through everyday work approach, technical advancements and adjusting the behavior is the principle of Agile Methodology which when structured with Scrum Framework gives a more incremental approach to a self-organised cross functional team with the efficient performance for collaborative iterative development approach.
What is Agile Methodology:
Agile Methodology refers to the software development process with an idea of iterative development between the self organised cross-functional team. The agile method emphasizes on breaking the whole process into different stages so as to keep track of every activity with constant collaboration resulting in improved and quality results at every stage of the workflow process. Keep reading scrum master interview questions.
With the concepts of Agile Methodology, teams are able to self organised themselves with the constant collaborative approach between the cross-functional team. Once the process of work begins, the teams need to go through different stages of planning, execution, evaluation and delivery.
The fundamentals of Agile Methodology relies on four core values:
1) Individual Interaction as well as Team Interaction over processes and tools.
2) Working Software over comprehensive documentation.
3) Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
4) Responding to change over following a plan.
Benefits of Agile:
The perspective for Customer:
When the customer takes a lookout in the market as for going with which technique for Software Development process, Agile Methodology stands perfectly for the need and outreach for the Customers. The Agile Methodology is more responsive to the customer’s request. Not only it gives the customer high valued features but also delivers more quickly with short cycles.
The Benefit for the development team:
Agile has a great role in making a good working environment. It makes the work process very smooth and makes the team enjoy development work. This helps to generate more good output. With Agile Methodology, their work is valued and more quality product is delivered. It also helps in reducing non-productive work.
The Benefits for Scrum Master:
As a Scrum Master, one needs to have good knowledge of Agile Methodology and how to implement the method into Scrum Framework. Agile gives a process for Scrum Master by virtue of which they can easily plan and track task in daily meetings. Agile gives the Scrum Master a good sense of approach and awareness towards the project state and status. The Agile Method also helps the Scrum Master to react to blockages quickly and address them.
The Benefits for Product Owner:
As a product owner, one predicts to have a good sense of approach for the work process so as to get a product of high values. The Agile development method the product owner to develop work aligns with customer needs. As it gives a product of high quality and highest possible values, it gives a good scope to them for a good approach.
The Perspective for Vendor:
As a vendor, with the help of Agile Methodology, one gets focused development on high-value features with increased efficiency It also helps them to reduce wastage and decreases the overhead.
Whats the Role of the Scrum Master?
A Scrum Master plays a very key, optimized and conclusive role for the working of Scrum Framework. The task and goal of Scrum Master are very diversified right from as the leader of Scrum teams to being the interface between the product owners and product developers. The position of Scrum Master is exclusive yet its practice and influence is extremely broad in use. So here are the following roles a Scrum Master plays in an organisation for Implementation of Scrum Framework.
Responsibilities of an effective Scrum Master:
Manage the Project Development and Implement the practices of Scrum
Keeping an eye on every track of the work process
Implementing Agile Development practices
Above mentioned are generally asked scrum master interview questions for Scrum Masters which the author has collected from many sources and interviewers to make it useful. However for the in depth I will come with advanced scrum master Interview questions and answers in the next blog. Certifications just give you a tag but it’s important from the interview perspective.
AgileWaters Consulting is a leading provider of professional certification courses, helping experts build a strong base on Scrum practices and its development. There are many scrum master interview questions during an interview that do not have a right or wrong answer. It all depends on each organization and the applicant’s perspective when resolving the situation. Hence, one should also be prepared for general questions as well.
Click here to check out our latest How Much Does The Scrum Master Certification Costs in India? blog.