How to Get Hired as a Scrum Master

Photo by stevengosch

Photo by stevengosch

I’ve blogged about how to prepare for the Scrum Master interview (see parts 1, 2, and 3) to help you stand out as a candidate. This morning I had the opportunity to do a Q&A with folks attending a Professional Scrum Foundations course, and the question about how to get that first agile job came up.

It’s a common question.

Getting an agile certification alone doesn’t get you the Scrum Master interview—having a certification is table stakes in most organizations. Networking at agile meetups is great for continued learning and meeting new people. Networking doesn’t give you the experience or skills for the job. Companies want to hire people who can help them get better results, and your goal as a candidate is to show that you have the capabilities to do that. That starts with you practicing agile where you are and how you can so you have experience to share on your resume and in interviews.

Hear my thoughts on getting started using agile to get hired as a Scrum Master in this video:

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

Hiring for Agile Teams - Part 2

Photo by killingtime2

Photo by killingtime2

Part 1 of this series focused on having the right job description for an agile team.  This post will focus on what to look out for in resumes.

Resume Smells

I'm going to focus on what to watch for when reviewing Agile Project Manager, Scrum Master, and Agile Coach resumes.

  1. If the person was a "Project Manager/Scrum Master/Agile Coach" at an organization, I don't believe them.  Each role is very different, and I don't know of anyone who could do all of them simultaneously.  If the candidate lists different time frames for each role, meaning that they were distinct jobs the person did, then I'm more likely to believe it.  Know which one you're looking to hire.
  2. Does the objective or summary map to your job description?  Ideally candidates are taking the time to tailor their resume for you, so the language should be complementary.  I'm amazed at how many summaries will say "Experienced project manager" when the job description said "Scrum Master."
  3. Too technical?  Sometimes the candidate's resume reads more like that of a developer or an architect.  It's nice to know what projects were previously worked on, but you want to know about the person's experience in working with people, not designing solutions.
  4. Not technical enough?  If your team is working on backend software, you may need someone with some experience working with technical teams who can listen for smells that the team isn't delivering iteratively and incrementally.  I don't think that technical skills are needed 100% of the time, although they are nice to have.  And by technical skills, I mean being able to understand understand technical conversations and identify potential smells--not designing the solution or telling people how to do their work.
  5. People skills--what experience does this candidate have?  For Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches, you're looking for words like "facilitated," "mentored," "coached," and "taught."  Facilitation, mentoring, coaching, and teaching are the keys to the agile coaching stance.  I also like to look for community involvement.

What do you look for when reading resumes?

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

Hiring for Agile Teams - Part 1

Photo by Phil Beard

Photo by Phil Beard

It seems like the pressures to "fill a hole" can play a large factor in hiring for an agile team, and I've seen what happens when the wrong person gets hired.  That pressure to hire someone can feel like a monkey on your back, but it doesn't go away just because there's a new person.  It's about finding the right person.

Creating an Agile Job Description

Finding the right person starts with posting the right job description.  If you're struggling to get resumes for the candidates you're wanting, then I'd take a look at what you're advertising.  Are you looking for a Scrum Master but saying that he/she must be able to manage budget, risk, and people?  You might not get the skilled facilitators and team builders you desire.  Think about your organization's culture--not just what it is today, but what you want it to be, if you're transitioning--and the key skills needed to be successful in this role.  Who do you need?  What are your must-haves, and what can be taught if someone has the willingness to learn?  I'm often looking for an enthusiastic attitude and a solid understanding of agile and scrum basics because many other things can be learned on the job.

The job description is often a candidate's first impression of your organization--does it sound like you?  Are you a cut and dry organization that sticks to the facts, or are you passionate about your product or your people?  What is it about your job description that inspires someone to apply to be on your team?

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.