The Scrum Master is responsible for supporting and promoting Scrum in a company — helping the Scrum team achieve its objectives, mitigate risks, and improve continuously.
As leaders, Scrum Masters look for ways to keep their teams motivated and working at their best. They may also be asked to solve complex issues — ones that interfere with productivity and efficiency — in a short space of time.
Put simply: it’s an important role with a lot of responsibility. And actually becoming a Scrum Master can be a difficult process, too. You need to demonstrate an iron-tight grasp of Agile, Scrum, and all key aspects of the role.
If you’re looking to join a company as a Scrum Master, or to make the step up within your own organization, you have to know as much as you can before that all-important interview. While certified Scrum Masters are appealing to employers, you can still make a positive impact on interviewers if you give them the answers they want to hear.
Below, we explore the 25 most common Scrum Master interview questions and answers — to help you on the road to success.
1. How do you define the purpose of a Scrum Master?
This is a crucial question. If you struggle to answer, your potential or existing employers will be baffled at best.
A Scrum Master supports and promotes Scrum, assisting their Scrum team to meet goals and perform to the highest standards. They need to work with the team to identify risks to a project’s success, and serve as a mentor/coach. The Scrum Master will help others in the organization understand how Scrum works, and why it matters, to ensure smooth collaboration.
Strong motivation skills are fundamental, as Scrum Masters must help teams to maintain interest in projects and stay focused on their objectives over time. But remember: as Scrum Master, you’re not the only one accountable for results — that falls on the Scrum team as a whole.
2. What does a Scrum Sprint mean to you?
You should know that a Scrum Sprint is a repeatable work cycle which usually runs no longer than 30 days, and can often be considerably shorter (even a week). The time-frame is set at the start of the sprint, during a planning meeting, and the length varies depending on the project’s size.
During the Scrum Sprint, specific work is finished and prepared for review. Progress is shared and evaluated during stand-up meetings each day. A Sprint Review allows the team to follow-up the process, identifying issues and learning lessons to improve subsequent Sprints. This is followed by a Sprint retrospective, in which improvements are planned.
Sprint retrospective books can help you learn more about this stage.
3. Do you feel Scrum and Agile are different?
This could be considered something of a trick question, though you should know this if you’re interviewing for a Scrum Master role.
Scrum is part of the Agile philosophy, which has its own principles and values (as does Scrum). Essentially, Scrum is a framework that helps teams deliver value in a short period. So, while Scrum and Agile differ, they are part of the same methodology.
Consider reading some agile blogs and agile books for deeper insights, and to shape an informed answer of your own.
4. Can you name the Scrum process’s three key artifacts?
Scrum’s three key artifacts are:
- Sprint Backlog
- Product Backlog
- Product Increment.
5. The Scrum framework involves three main roles — can you name them?
- Scrum Master
- Product Owner
- Scrum team.
6. How would you describe a Product Owner’s function?
A Product Owner (one of the three key roles in Scrum) is responsible for driving a product’s success and ensuring it offers business value. They establish what must be delivered based on an understanding of the target customer and the stakeholders’ needs.
Their responsibilities include managing Scrum backlogs, release management, and stakeholder management.
7. What does a Scrum Master do to aid a Product Owner?
A Scrum Master helps a Product Owner by:
- Helping them to keep an updated list of tasks to be completed and release objectives
- Ensuring Product Backlogs are prioritized to align with the Product Owner’s most recent input
- Making sure all stakeholder requirements are covered by backlog items
- Encouraging a shared product vision amongst the Scrum team.
8. Can you describe the automation tools you would prefer to use to boost efficiency and streamline processes?
Scrum tends to involve automated performance testing to deliver products within the shortest time, and you may be asked to name relevant ones (including remote tools) you’ve used before.
For top points, elaborate on their functions and benefits as well.
9. What metrics do you feel work best for measuring the progress of a project?
A number of metrics can be used to measure project progress — team velocity, sprint burndown, capital redeployment, and time to market (to name just a few). Show that you know popular metrics and why they matter.
10. Would you be willing to let someone adjust a requirement?
You want to answer with a firm yes.
Agile incorporates feedback from stakeholders and customers to deliver better products, so change is an essential element of the process.
11. As a Scrum Master, how would you run a daily meeting?
During a Scrum daily (or stand-up) meeting, Scrum Masters ask team members:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What do you plan to do today?
- What is stopping us from achieving today’s goals?
Asking and answering these questions is crucial to help the Scrum team focus. Icebreakers questions and ice breakers games can help to energize teams at the start of meetings.
12. Can you name risk management’s five phases?
The five phases are:
- Identifying risks
- Categorizing risks
- Risk response
- Reviewing risks
- Risk closure.
13. Can a Sprint be cancelled?
Sure, Sprints may be cancelled ahead of a timebox (a brief unit of time dedicated to a specific activity) reaching its end.
14. If a Sprint can be cancelled, who has the authority to do so?
A Product Owner has the authority to cancel a Sprint.
15. How does Agile help a business succeed?
This is a great opportunity to show you understand the business value of the Scrum Master role.
Agile helps businesses satisfy customers with useful software delivered quickly. It continually results in products that work; nurturing close cooperation between a business and the product developers, and helping to encourage self-motivation among teams.
16. How do you define a user story?
User stories help teams to understand a user’s needs by describing one or more product features. They discuss the type of user being targeted, what they require from the software, and why (their goals).
17. If conflict arose within your team, how would you handle it?
Discord may be an issue you encounter as a Scrum Master. This is where communication and people skills come into play: too much conflict between team members can disrupt productivity, causing delays and potential missed deadlines with company-wide repercussions.
You should discuss how you would help team members to see difficulties or points of confusion from other perspectives.
18. Can you explain how change management in an Agile Scrum differs to Waterfall change management?
If you’re unfamiliar with the waterfall model (in which a product lifecycle’s progress flows through a linear sequence of phases), now’s the time to change that. If you’re asked this question, you’ll need to explain that there’s no change management plan in Agile, as work delivery is based on the product backlog definition.
But in the more rigid waterfall, change management depends on the change management plan, change tracker, and release plan instead.
19. How would you inspire and motivate a new, inexperienced Scrum team?
Galvanizing a team that’s new to Scrum (and Agile itself) can be tough, as they may be skeptical and/or reluctant to change their ways.
You need to discuss how you’d highlight the benefits of Scrum and how you’d encourage team members to get involved — listening to their concerns and addressing them one by one.
20. What estimation techniques are commonly used in a Scrum project?
Common estimation techniques in Scrum projects include:
- Estimation by Analogy
- T-shirt Estimation
- Planning Poker Estimation
- Disaggregation Estimation.
21. What does the term DoD mean to you?
Literally speaking, DoD means Definition of Done. But in practice, DoD is a way of aligning the Scrum team — getting them to agree on what a completed job looks like.
This involves listing acceptance criteria, to determine if a Sprint backlog activity is finished or not.
22. How do you define velocity?
Velocity relates to the combined effort a team has invested into a Sprint, and is calculated by adding a Sprint’s previous story points together. This helps team members recognize the number of stories they can handle in a Sprint — increasing efficiency of output as a result.
23. Can you name three potential drawbacks of Scrum?
Scrum isn’t perfect, of course. And if you’re aware of the disadvantages, you demonstrate a greater understanding.
Holding Scrum meetings involves regular reviews and significant resources, while successful project completion depends on the entire team’s dedication — any disharmony can drag everyone’s performance down. There’s a lot of uncertainty throughout the Scrum cycle, too, with regards to product delivery, changes, etc.
24. What do you consider the three top potential dangers when running a Scrum project?
Common risks include timeline problems as teams try to adapt to changes, difficulties with budget (i.e. running out of funds), and scope creep (new features added to products in development, due to inefficient requirement definition).
25. What does the term Minimum Viable Product (MVP) mean to you?
A Minimum Viable Product has only the critical (minimum) features required, ready to be presented to stakeholders and to be shipped for production. This is one of the simplest terms to understand, so be sure you know it — and why it’s important in development — ahead of your interview.
Ready for your Scrum Master interview questions?
Interviewing for a Scrum Master position can be an intimidating process, but it’s vital that you’re a genuine fit. Otherwise, a lack of knowledge, experience, and leadership skills could lead to serious delivery issues down the line.
Take the time to research all key elements/terms covered in our 25 questions to maximize your chances of success. And good luck.