Philip Rogers Phil started his career as an Air Force Officer in the 1980s, and has since worked with private- and public-sector organizations, as well as not-for-profits, in program and project management and DevOps. He's a digital imaging specialist at the Smithsonian, enjoys live music, and is a theatre, film, cycling, hiking, and swimming enthusiast.

A guide to scrum master interview questions

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A Guide To Scrum Master Interview Questions

The most recent version of the Scrum Guide outlines a scrum master as one of the three areas of accountability. Despite the importance of the role, many misconceptions exist surrounding what a day in the life of a scrum master actually looks like.

For example, many people think a scrum master is similar to a project manager, even though these two roles differ significantly.

This blog post seeks to clearly articulate the nature of the scrum master role, alongside examples of important scrum master traits. Then, the focus will shift towards what employers typically look for when hiring scrum master candidates and conclude with a set of sample interview questions.

Table of contents

Understanding the scrum master role

The Scrum Guide lays out scrum master responsibilities based on three areas of service:

Scrum Master Role

Let’s take a look at each of the three areas.

Service to the scrum team

A scrum master serves a team by coaching team members to understand agile and scrum values, principles, and practices, establishing team norms, and the application of techniques that can help with communication, collaboration, and self-management.

They help the team focus on delivering a valuable product that aligns with business objectives and push their team to work in a way that is effective, efficient, and aligns with organizational norms.

It’s important that scrum masters recognize what things are slowing down or stopping progress and partner with people internal and external to the team to address those challenges.

In the case of disagreement, the scrum master acts as a facilitator, ensuring that scrum events and other team interactions remain positive.

Service to the product owner

The scrum master partners with the product owner to help articulate and check for ongoing alignment with the product and sprint goal. This includes assisting with the management of the product backlog.

Alongside this, the scrum master helps the product owner in empirical product planning and agile delivery, as well as by facilitating conversations with stakeholders.

Service to the organization

The scrum master helps an organization by acting as a trainer in areas such as business agility, scrum, lean, and kanban. They also partner with leaders across the organization to launch agile teams and/or enhance the organization’s understanding of and agile and scrum.

Alongside this, the scrum master facilitates cross-team conversations that focus on dependency management and continuous improvement.

Important scrum master traits

The most effective scrum masters tend to have the following traits:

  • Humility — Notice how each of the areas described above is framed based on a form of service. The most important question a scrum master can ask is, “How can I help?”
  • Curiosity — The world of agile software development is dynamic. Being eager to learn—and aware that you always have more to learn—is an important aspect of the role
  • Empathy — Caring about each other is one of the things that can separate an exceptional team from the rest, and scrum masters have an opportunity to model empathy with every interaction
  • Situational awareness — Being aware of your surroundings as a scrum master takes many forms, from knowing when to silently observe, when to ask probing or clarifying questions, and when to push back when something doesn’t seem quite right
  • Adaptability — There is far more to being a scrum master than what is described in the Scrum Guide, and often it’s necessary to be willing to try a different approach, even if it wasn’t part of your original plan

Recruiters and hiring managers look for

People who are involved with finding scrum master candidates and making scrum master hiring decisions tend to focus on specific types of experience, understanding of concepts, and training, which are summarized below:

Recruiters And Hiring Managers Look For


Simply stated, the more agile teams you’ve worked with, the better. Even if you were in a role other than a scrum master, having experience with an agile team is important.

If you’re wondering how to get your first scrum master role, consider gaining experience in a different role on an agile team first, such as a business analyst, data analyst, or systems analyst. Doing so will give you a far better understanding of what it’s like to be a member of an agile team, and if you’re on a scrum team, you’ll have an opportunity to see how scrum masters work.


It’s desirable (but often not a must-have) to have an understanding of and experience in the business domain of a prospective employer. Aside from domain experience, you’ll need to understand and be able to describe in some detail:

  • Scrum — Knowing the Scrum Guide is a good place to start, especially the “Scrum 3-5-3:”
    • The three areas of accountability (one of which is the scrum master)
    • The five events (the meeting types in scrum)
    • The three artifacts (the scrum deliverables)
  • Agile values, principles, and practices:
    • Agile Manifesto (which consists of four values and 12 principles)
    • Agile product management (the more you know about roadmaps, backlogs, acceptance testing, and similar product management constructs, the better)
    • Agile technical practices and code deployment practices, to name a few, can make a big difference.
    • Application lifecycle management (ALM) tools (two of the most common are Atlassian’s Jira and Azure DevOps)
    • User experience (UX) (the more user-interface-intensive the work is, the more likely that a designer/UX practitioner will be on the team)


Certain certifications may be considered necessary by some employers, such as:

  • Certified Scrum Master (CSM), offered by The Scrum Alliance
  • Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP), offered by the Project Management Institute
  • Agile Team Facilitation (ICP-ATF), offered by ICAgile

Example scrum master interview questions

Now let’s take a look at some sample interview questions, grouped by category:

General questions

These questions tend to focus on getting a better general understanding of you and what experience you bring to the table. You can expect the following:

  • How many agile teams have you worked with?
  • What were some characteristics of the teams that you worked with which made them “agile?”
  • Give me an example of a challenge you encountered on an agile team, and what steps you took to overcome that challenge
  • What are some of the signs that you typically look for to help you understand the health of an agile team?
  • Name an example of something you are particularly proud of based on your experience in working with agile teams

Scrum questions

After the general questions are out of the way, interviewers will delve into how much you know about scrum and the scrum master role by asking:

  • Scrum includes numerous types of meetings — please provide examples of the meetings that are part of scrum, including what their purpose is
  • What do you like the most about the scrum master role?
  • Based on your experience, what are some of the keys to scrum team success?
  • What might you say to a team when it looks like they are about to take on more work than they can realistically complete during a sprint?
  • Please describe your experience with facilitating retrospective conversations, including sample outcomes from those conversations that helped the team improve
  • What would you say to a friend or colleague if they asked you for advice about becoming a scrum master?
  • In what ways do the responsibilities of scrum masters and product owners differ?
  • What are some examples of desirable outcomes from sprint reviews?
  • Please articulate the approach you take to facilitating sprint planning meetings
  • What are some examples of indicators that scrum masters are successful in their role?

Behavioral questions

These questions delve into “what-if” types of scenarios, which provide greater insight into your understanding of scrum and the scrum master role:

  • Walk me through what steps you might take to get a new scrum team started. What would you do first, and why?
  • You have noticed that some team members are silent during a retrospective. What steps might you take to ensure their voice is heard?
  • Based on team conversations, you’re noticing increasing tension because team members are indicating they are drowning in technical debt, but due to schedule pressure, they have numerous new features still to develop for an upcoming release. What steps might you take in this situation?
  • Let’s say you’re working with a distributed team, where more than half of the team members are in different time zones. What are some techniques that you might try to help such a distributed team stay on the same page?
  • You’re working with a team where they’re having difficulty with writing user stories that are clear, concise, and testable. What steps might you take to help them improve their user stories?
  • You’ve noticed that a team you’re working with is finishing less than half of the stories from their sprint backlog during recent sprints. What are some of the most common causes for struggling to finish work, and what steps might you take to help the team address it?
  • Suppose you’ve been working with a team that has just achieved a significant milestone. What are some examples of techniques that you have used to help teams celebrate success?
  • Let’s say you’re working with a team where their daily scrums are consistently lasting for more than 30 minutes. What steps might you take in that situation?

Keys for success in scrum master interviews

When it comes to interviews for scrum master roles, here are some keys to success:

  • Know what you know — Agile software development is a broad domain, and it takes time to develop expertise. If you encounter a situation where you are struggling to answer a question, by all means do your best to answer, while also expressing a willingness to learn more about the topic
  • Ask questions — During the interview, ask clarifying questions as necessary to make sure you understand the intent of questions you are being asked, and have several general questions ready to probe areas you’re curious about with respect to the organization, the role, and the team(s) you might be working with
  • Paint a picture of who you are — Describe complex team dynamics and specific things you have done to help teams be successful, while helping maintain a healthy team work environment. Describing hobbies or interests that you have can also help interviewers connect with you as a person


The scrum master role is characterized by a service-oriented mindset — many practitioners would refer to this as a form of servant leadership. While recognizing that every team is a unique entity, there are important traits that can help you succeed as a scrum master, including humility, empathy, curiosity, adaptability, and situational awareness.

By focusing on building out your understanding of important agile and scrum concepts and gaining experience in working with agile teams in one or more roles, you will be well on your way to a career as an agile practitioner.

Featured image source: IconScout

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Philip Rogers Phil started his career as an Air Force Officer in the 1980s, and has since worked with private- and public-sector organizations, as well as not-for-profits, in program and project management and DevOps. He's a digital imaging specialist at the Smithsonian, enjoys live music, and is a theatre, film, cycling, hiking, and swimming enthusiast.

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