How to Prepare for a Scrum Master Interview, Part 3 – All about You

Photo by Michael Li

Photo by Michael Li

In part 1, I wrote about how to explain the Scrum framework and demonstrate your knowledge. Part 2 covered highlighting your real-world Agile experience and how you’ve helped teams improve. This post is about sharing your you-ness.

Your resume probably shows your past jobs and when you first became a Scrum Master. However, it’s likely less clear about why you’re interested in being a Scrum Master and what makes you uniquely qualified for the role.

Your Agile Origin Story

Fans of comic books and superhero movies will recognize an origin story as the backstory that informs the identity and motivations of heroes and villains. It is the narrative of how they came to be the hero or villain that they are.

I met someone recently at a party who had been told by a friend to look into becoming a Scrum Master. As we talked, I learned that this person is currently in an accounting position and good at math. His friend thought he’d be a good Scrum Master because he could create accurate burndown charts and calculate the team’s velocity. And then I learned that he doesn’t like socializing much at work. As I described more about the Scrum Master as the team’s coach, he decided that it might not be such a good role for him after all.

Think back to how you first learned about agile and when you started trying Scrum. What stands out in those memories? As you continue remembering your agile journey, there is something about being a Scrum Master that you love—what is it? Each one of us has a different path when in becoming a Scrum Master—different backgrounds, education, roles, and experiences. Those differences shape who we are.

Noticing the patterns or themes in positive past experiences may highlight the aspects of agile that are most important to you. Whether I was a project manager or agile PM or Scrum Master, I loved going into messy or chaotic situations and finding better ways of delivering software to customers by working with both technical and business people. That was my one-liner in interviews. How I found better ways of delivering software by working with people evolved over time. What’s your one-liner of what you love to do?

Using Your Strengths

As a Scrum Master, you bring certain strengths and passions to the role that set you apart. To determine your strengths, you can take an assessment like StrengthsFinder or ask coworkers what they think your strengths are. You might think about the compliments you’ve received in the past or situations where you excelled. There are things others struggle with that you find easy to do.

When you’re doing work you care about and using your strengths, you work harder and better. When you look at your past, what impact did you have on the individuals you worked with? What awesomeness did you inspire? How are you connected to those people, and what are they doing now? Talking about the impact you’ve had on real people and relationships you’ve grown gives confidence in your abilities. And sharing how you helped others become better feels good.

Rock the Scrum Master Interview

This the last post in a 3-part series on how to prepare for a Scrum Master interview. These posts will help you be more confident and clear in explaining the Scrum framework, describing your agile experience, and showcasing your personal agile journey and strengths. Interviewers ask a variety of questions and look for different skills based on their organization’s needs. Preparation as a candidate will give you a better sense of what you are looking for in an opportunity. Good luck on your interviews, and remember they are a two-way process so you can (and should) ask questions too.

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.

Focus on Your Strengths in 2014

Photo by David Hayward

Photo by David Hayward

My brain is like a sponge.

At least, that’s what I learned from StrengthsFinders 2.0 by Tom Rath.

I’ve been reflecting on this blog and its purpose, and I’ve been remembering why I started it: to use my strengths and stretch my skills.  According to the StrengthsFinders 2.0 online assessment, my top 5 strengths are:

  • Input – I have a craving to know more and like to collect information
  • Intellection – I am introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions
  • Deliberative – I take serious care in making decisions and anticipate obstacles
  • Restorative – I am adept at figuring out what is wrong and resolving it
  • Futuristic – I am inspired by the future and what could be

Or as I like to summarize it, I’m a nerd who likes to think and think and think about what’s wrong, what could go wrong, what should be different, and what could be.

And I learned how my brain is like a sponge:

Your mind is open and absorbent. You naturally soak up information in the same way that a sponge soaks up water. But just as the primary purpose of the sponge is not to permanently contain what it absorbs, neither should your mind simply store information. Input without output can lead to stagnation. As you gather and absorb information, be aware of the individuals and groups that can most benefit from your knowledge, and be intentional about sharing with them.

Until that moment, I thought everyone’s brain was a sponge like mine.  And to a degree, that may be true.  But I’ve since realized that I consume far more information than most of my peers, which has helped me get to where I am today.  Knowing that my strength is collecting information, I found it helpful to have suggested actions to use and grow my strength:

  •  Identify situations in which you can share the information you have collected with other people. Also make sure to let your friends and colleagues know that you enjoy answering their questions.
  • Take time to write. Writing might be the best way for you to crystallize and integrate your thoughts.

Starting a blog seemed like a natural next step.  I’ve noticed how much easier it is to articulate my thoughts since I’ve started blogging—my ability to connect ideas and share them with others has gotten stronger because I’ve been increasing this skill through writing.

As you consider new behaviors and resolutions for 2014, ask yourself: how are you using your strengths, and how can you increase them?

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.