13 Scrum Master Interview Questions and Answers

Written by Coursera • Updated on Sep 10, 2021

Hiring managers might ask you to explain Scrum concepts or describe what you would do in different situations.

Interviewee explaining her answer in a Scrum master interview.

It’s natural to be nervous before an interview. But preparing ahead of time can boost your chances of doing well, plus help calm your nerves. Here are 13 questions commonly encountered in Scrum master interviews, including both definitional and behavioral questions. Plus, find resources to help you brush up on Scrum principles.

3 types of Scrum master interview questions you'll encounter

A Scrum master interview is a job interview like any other—with Scrum-specific questions. Here are the kinds of interview questions you’ll probably run into:

  • Universal interview questions: These include questions you might encounter in many types of interviews, like “Tell me about yourself,” or “What are your greatest strengths?”.

  • Definitional questions: If an organization is hiring a Scrum master, they likely want somebody who knows the ins and outs of Scrum. Many of the questions you encounter in an interview are likely to assess your actual knowledge of Scrum, along with related concepts like Agile. Answer these with a succinct explanation of the term, and describe why it’s important.

  • Behavioral questions: Behavioral questions show how you would handle various situations as a Scrum master. Come prepared with several stories from your experience that you can pull from during the interview.

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Scrum master definitional interview questions

Hiring managers commonly use definitional questions to gauge your knowledge of Scrum. But it’s likely that the interviewer is looking for something more than a dictionary definition. Take the opportunity to highlight why that particular term matters to the job, team, or Scrum process.

1. What is Scrum?

An interviewer might use this question to get the conversation started. In answering this question, offer a quick definition, and talk about why Scrum matters. How does Scrum bring value to a team and a business? What are the benefits of adopting Scrum practices, especially compared to other project management styles?

Even if you’re familiar with Scrum, basic definitions can be tough to come up with on the spot. Have a solid definition at the ready, along with some comments on the value it can provide to an organization.

Other forms this question might take:

  • Describe Scrum to somebody who doesn’t know what it is.

  • What are the advantages of Scrum?

  • What does Scrum mean to you?

Read more: What Is a Scrum Master (and How Do I Become One)?

2. What are Scrum artifacts?

There are three Scrum artifacts: the product backlog, the sprint backlog, and the product increment. 

  • The product backlog is an ordered list of tasks and items needed in a product. It’s typically maintained by the product owner.

  • The sprint backlog is a list of tasks that need to be accomplished in a sprint.

  • The product increment is the deliverable completed in a sprint.

Other forms this question might take:

  • What is a product backlog?

  • What is a product increment?

  • What would you say is the most important Scrum artifact?

3. What are the Scrum values?

The five Scrum values—commitment, focus, openness, respect, and courage—are what drive Scrum’s success. The values make Scrum more than just a series of processes, and are a large part of what sets it apart from more traditional project management approaches like Waterfall.

In your response, consider talking about why those values are important in a Scrum team. You might mention how they’re different from other types of project management. It’ll also be worthwhile to connect the values to the performance of a Scrum team. Have a story about how getting a team member to be courageous about sharing honest feedback saved a project from trouble? This could be a good time to share.

Other forms this question might take:

  • What do the Scrum values mean to you?

  • What are the three pillars of Scrum?

4. What is a product owner?

As a Scrum master, you’ll be expected to know what roles other team members will play. The product owner is a staple of most any Scrum team. An interviewer can be trying to understand how you think of the role, and how you’ll integrate the role into the team.

Product owners are in charge of making sure the team is aligned with the product goals. They do this by clearly communicating product goals and managing the product backlog. If you have previous experience managing or working with product owners, this would be a good chance to share it.

Other forms this question might take:

  • What are the three roles in a Scrum team?

  • What qualities are important in a product owner?

Read more: The 3 Scrum Roles and Responsibilities, Explained

5. What are the limitations of Scrum?

The benefits of Scrum are well-touted, but it isn’t for every organization or team. A Scrum master should know the limits of Scrum, and when best to leave a project to other types of project management.

Scrum is generally recommended for teams or industries that expect to face change. Because they are designed to adapt quickly and operate in short cycles, Scrum teams are generally small, making it hard for pure Scrum to work for projects with large teams without some modifications. 

Scrum also might not be the best choice if you’re working with very strict constraints, like a budget or timeline. If you’re familiar with other project management methods, talk about how those might replace or supplement Scrum in a project.

Other forms this question might take:

  • When would you use Waterfall instead of Scrum?

  • Have you used modified versions of Scrum before?

  • How did you adapt when a Scrum process wasn’t working for a project?

Read more: How to Become a Project Manager in 5 Steps

Scrum master situational interview questions

Situational questions play double duty—they gauge your experience and assess your behavioral skills. 

6. How would you scale Scrum?

Some project managers are hired explicitly to scale Scrum at organizations. Check the job description to see if you’re expected to do this kind of work. 

There are several methods you might use to scale Scrum across a large team or organization. These include the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Nexus, and Scrum@Scale. Be honest about what’s familiar to you, and what processes have worked or not worked.

Other forms this question might take:

  • What scaling methods have you used?

  • What’s your experience with scaling Scrum?

7. Someone on your team hasn’t taken a liking to Scrum, which is negatively affecting the project. What would you do?

Scrum is a new process to many people. Some people might not take to it easily, especially in companies where processes have been entrenched for many years. 

There are several ways you might tackle this issue. Some Scrum masters might refer back to the Scrum values and encourage teams at the outset to think differently than they’re used to. Others might work to instill a sense of ownership of the product in the team member so that they’re invested in the process. Still others might bring in a certified trainer for formal training.

Other forms this question might take:

  • How do you break old habits within an organization?

  • How would you prepare people to accept the Scrum process?

8. How did you handle a mistake that was made?

Any project team will make mistakes—details might be overlooked, communication might go awry, or things simply might not go according to plan. Interviewers will expect—or even prefer—to see that you’ve dealt with mistakes in the past. Part of being a project manager or Scrum master is knowing how to deal with them and still complete a project successfully when they happen.

What sorts of tools or systems do you use to make sure communication goes smoothly? What preventative measures do you take to minimize errors?

Other forms this question might take:

  • Describe a time when a project fell behind schedule.

  • Have you managed a project that didn’t meet its initial objectives?

  • What’s one change you’ve had to make in the middle of a project?

9. What would you do if a team member is unable to complete a task for a sprint?

It’ll be your task as a Scrum master to keep an eye on the needs of your team. As a Scrum master, you might have a one-on-one conversation to find out why a team member is falling behind—perhaps they’re overworked, don’t know how to use a tool, or are having personal issues. Then you can administer an appropriate fix, like spreading out the workload, or bringing in a subject matter expert to teach a tool or complete a portion of the task. 

This might also involve creating an environment where team members feel empowered to speak up when they run into issues.

Other forms this question might take:

  • How would you motivate team members?

  • What would you do if the project is running behind schedule?

10. How would you handle conflict within the team?

Conflict can happen due to clashing personalities or disagreements on how to approach a task.

There are a few ways you can handle conflict, including:

  • Have one-on-one meetings with interested parties to understand the issue

  • Organize the Scrum team to brainstorm solutions

  • Escalate if the decision-making capacity is out of your power

  • Allow team members to sort out differences themselves, and intervene only when it is actively hampering project performance

You might also talk about preventative measures to prevent conflict as much as possible. This can include setting up effective communication plans, or fostering teamwork by having icebreaker sessions.

Other forms this question might take:

  • What would you do if you disagreed with a team member on how best to approach a task?

  • Are you capable of managing a team?

11. How would you deal with a difficult stakeholder?

Dealing with difficult stakeholders is another key project management skill. Dealing with them gracefully will probably take a combination of people skills and having processes in place to minimize unexpected changes and set expectations for communication.

Other forms this question might take:

  • How frequently do you think you should communicate with stakeholders?

  • How would you balance stakeholder needs with the needs of your team?

12. What is your favorite scrum event?

This question can both test your knowledge of Scrum events and reveal your work style as a Scrum master. 

There are four scrum events: sprint planning, daily Scrum, sprint review, and sprint retrospective. They are sometimes called ceremonies. Tie your answer back to what you think is important in the Scrum process. For example, maybe you look forward to the daily Scrum meeting because it allows the team to communicate openly about progress or pain points and build camaraderie.

Other forms this question might take:

  • What gets you excited about Scrum?

  • What do you think is the most important part of Scrum?

13. What is your experience in this industry?

Some project manager positions will prioritize candidates with some industry knowledge. 

Did you work as an engineer, designer, or healthcare worker before you transitioned to project management? Have you worked on projects that helped you get familiar with laws within a certain industry? Come prepared with talking points about your experience in that industry, and how that can help inform your project management. You can also mention why you enjoy working in it.

Other forms this question might take:

  • Why do you enjoy working in this industry?

  • Why do you want to work in this industry?

Scrum resources

Trying to brush up on Scrum concepts? Here are a few resources to help you get on track.

Scrum Guide: The Scrum Guide is a resource written and provided by the creators of Scrum, Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber. At the time of writing, it’s available for free online in over thirty different languages. 

Guided projects: Guided projects—short, hands-on projects you can complete in two hours or less—can be quick ways to get acquainted with new skills, or practice ones you’ve never used in person before. Here are a few you can check out on Coursera:

Interviewing remotely: A remote interview has its unique challenges. Watch the video below to learn how to prepare for one.

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In this video, we'll talk through some tips for interviewing remotely.

Getting started in project management

If you’re looking for a broad entry point to project management, getting a good grasp of the basics is a must. Looking for a place to start? Learn the essentials of project management processes with the Google Project Management: Professional Certificate.

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Written by Coursera • Updated on Sep 10, 2021

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