Six Tips for Interviewing Scrum Masters, Part 2

Now that you know what you expect from your Scrum Master’s job (the deliverables), and you know the essential and desirable skills (the first three tips), you can focus on creating the interview questions and audition. (If you have not yet read Six Tips for Interviewing Scrum Masters, Part 1 for the first three tips, please do so now.) Tip 4: Create Behavior-Description Questions for Your Scrum Master Based on Essential Qualities, Preferences, and Non-Technical Skills For initiative, you might ask behavior-description questions like these: Give me an example of a recent time you thought the team was stuck. How did you know the team was stuck and what did you do? (You want to know if the SM was command-and-control, interfering or helpful.) Tell me about a time when your Product Owner was convinced the story was as small as possible, but the story was a month long. Have you encountered something like this? (Maybe a month is longer than what the candidate encountered. Maybe it wasn’t the PO. Listen to their experience.) What happened? (Listen for what the SM did or did not do. Different Scrum Masters facilitate differently. There Is No Right Answer.) Tell me about a recent time the team had many stories in progress and didn’t finish at the end of a sprint. What happened? (Listen for what the SM did or did not do. Different Scrum Masters facilitate differently. There Is No Right Answer.) For flexibility, consider these questions: What do you consider negotiable in a Scrum team? Why? Give me a recent example of that flexibility. Give me an example of a time...

Six Tips for Interviewing Scrum Masters, Part 1

People want to know the “secret sauce” for hiring Scrum Masters and agile coaches. I wish it was easy to provide a standard set of questions. Because your agile team is unique, your questions should be different. However, there are some common qualities, preferences, and non-technical skills among Scrum Masters. First, do a job analysis for your Scrum Master. I have met teams who needed an agile project manager because no one was in the same place. I have met teams who needed an account manager, because they were consultants. I wrote about this problem in Which “Scrum Master” Are You Hiring? I also did a potential job analysis for a servant leader/Scrum Master in What Do You Look for in a Servant Leader or a Scrum Master? The chances of this being the correct job analysis for your Scrum Master are not so good, given what I see in organizations. Tip 1: Define Your Scrum Master’s Deliverables Since every team and organization I work with is unique, you need to do your own job analysis. You do. For the sake of argument, let’s assume the Scrum Master has these deliverables: Coach team(s). (If you want to be a great Scrum Master, look at Michael James’ Scrum Master checklist. A great Scrum Master coaches one team.) Facilitate team meetings and Scrum rituals. Ensure information radiators are up to date. Looks at the team’s process and sees if the team need other radiators. Advocates for the team. Identifies and removes team impediments. Coaches on agile practices. Helps team see what they are doing to see how they can improve. Coaches...

Are You Hiring for Helpfulness?

I was reading IDEO’s Culture of Helping. Especially if you are hiring for an agile team, you want to hire for helpfulness. Do You Have a Helpful Culture? Notice, that it’s not about expertise or competence. The most helpful people are people who were trustworthy and accessible. When you hire for the cultural fit of helpfulness, you have to make sure you have a culture that allows for helping. Do you allow for slack in your projects so people have a chance to help others? That give people a chance to be accessible. The other part is trustworthiness. Do you have a culture of learning, not blame around defects and technical debt, so people say, “Oooh,” when they discover something that maybe they should not have done? Or, do they say, “Oh, crap, here comes the boom”? How You Can Hire for Helpfulness Okay, here’s how you can detect how a candidate might be helpful to your organization. Here are some behavior-description questions: Give me an example of a time someone asked you for help on your most recent project. What happened? (This is the obvious question.) Have you seen people “drowning” on your most recent project? What did you do? (This is the problem of inflicting help.) Have you been in a position where people asked you for help, you wanted to provide it, but you felt uneasy about providing it? (wait for a yes) Tell me about that. These are not the only three questions. They are a...

What Does Your Interviewing Reveal About You?

Did you read When Did You Last “Shop” Your Candidate Experience? See the common complaints from candidates: Distracted interviewers Late or no-show interviewers Non-job relevant questions You don’t have to vie for a “Best Place to Work” award or a candidate experience award, or any award at all. You need to be authentic. That’s all. I don’t buy their solutions. (No surprise there, eh?) In fact, I think their standard interview questions stink. If you read Hiring Geeks That Fit (as an interviewer), I have better questions for you to ask. If you are a candidate, I have better ways to answer these questions in Manage Your Job Search. Here’s an example: they suggest you ask, “Where do you want to be in 5 years?” Well, I don’t know any company willing to commit to anyone for 5 years. That’s an irrelevant question. Instead, ask something like this, “Tell me about a recent time when you learned something and applied that learning at work?” Or, “Tell me about a time you wanted a promotion. What did you do to earn it?” Or, “Tell me about a recent time you learned a problem your manager needed to have solved. What did you do?” As a candidate, you can turn this around, and say, “Let me ask you instead, what objectives do you have for this position in the next 3 months, 6 months, and year, or even longer? I can provide you a better answer based on what I’ve done in the past and make it relevant to the job.” Then you give a behavior-description answer. Remember, you represent your...

Three Interview Questions That Don’t Gauge Cultural Fit

I saw this post on Twitter, The 3 Interview Questions You Should Ask to Instantly Gauge Fit. I got excited. Oh, maybe we do have questions that address cultural fit. No such luck. More stupid irrelevant and hypothetical questions. I am so disappointed. If you are a candidate and an interviewer asks you these questions in the guise of a conversation, you should be disappointed, too. What are they? What’s the most interesting thing about you that’s not on your resume? What’s the biggest misconception your coworkers have about you and why do they think that? What has to happen during the course of the day to make it a good one at work? Let’s review what corporate culture is: how people treat each other, what’s rewarded, and what’s okay to discuss. Do these questions address any of that? I don’t see how. Do the questions address how a person can do the job at work? I don’t see how. Why would anyone ask these questions? (picture a short woman pulling out her hair.) If you are a candidate, and you get these questions, here’s how you might answer these questions: 1. For the most interesting question, turn it into a behavior-description answer. Take a small thing that was indicative of your collaboration or facilitation or leadership. Make it something you did not highlight on your resume. As an alternative, make it something you chose to learn.  “On my most recent project, let me tell you a story about how I facilitated <this thing>.” Or, “I really wanted to learn basket weaving. I know basket weaving isn’t part of...