Did you Fail in a ScrumMaster Interview? It may not be Your Fault!

Recently I referred one of my students to a company which I am also coaching. The person I referred is pretty good in agile concepts, however he was not selected. When I checked with the company, I was told that the person who interviewed the candidate reported that he doesn’t understand agile. I got curious about what might have happened and enquired who interviewed. To my surprise the person who interviewed is the one who told me that he doesn’t like ScrumMaster role since it doesn’t have authority. So, it’s not just you but the person who is interviewing also should be competent in the subject.

In another instance, In one of my user groups someone asked “What is the answer for blah-blah-blah question? I was asked in an interview”. Someone else asked, do you want the correct answer? or the answer expected by the interviewer? Scrum is a guidance and Agility is how do your work to deliver value, so there is no one right answer. Lot of organisations implement Scrum in their convenient way which may either make them Agile or Fragile. When there is no concrete answer, how do you deal with that situation? Here is my advice:

  1. First of all, you need to understand the Scrum or any other Agile approach thoroughly. There is no second thought on it. If you cut corners, you may succeed once by luck but not always. Learn it the right way and refine you understanding by reading blogs, articles, books etc. It is a continuous learning process. After many years of teaching Scrum, I don’t claim that I am an expert on it. I still learn everyday.
  2. Understand the dysfunctional practices and their consequences. You may acquire this knowledge with your own experiences or from others. Attending local meet ups will help you gaining this knowledge. By understanding the cause and effect of different practices will help you deepen your understanding.
  3. Now that you know what are the right ways of doing and consequences of wrong practices, learn how to ask right question to understand the interviewer’s question better. For example, the interviewer gives you a scenario and ask you how you would handle this. You may want to say “ As per Scrum, this(what ever it is) probably is the right way to handle. However, lot of organisations do it these ways and these are the consequences”. By answering that way, if the interviewer knows Scrum well, they understand that you know it well too. If the interviewer is expecting a dysfunctional answer, hopefully you covered it. Even you didn’t cover, this can lead to further discussion for clarification. Regardless, if the interviewer is only looking for “Yes Man/Woman”, you should be happy not to get job there.

In summary, don’t prepare for the interview just-in-time, rather build the knowledge, gain experience and learn how to ask right questions to get into conversation rather than a Q&A session. This approach might give you more confidence in handling situations on the fly. Learning coaching can help you big time here.

One of my students told me that when the interviewer asked him a question that didn’t make any sense, he just laughed and walked away. After sometime, the interviewer’s manager called him and asked why he did so. My student told him that the interviewer had no idea what he is talking about and he doesn’t want to waste his time. Manager apologised and requested him to come back for interview with a different person. So, don’t hesitate to walk away if that is not the right place for you to work. Otherwise, you will be frustrated through out your life in that organization.

Any other thoughts?

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