I’m the Senior Scrum Master at a small 100-person startup in Silicon Valley. The work and my teams rock, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I’m also responsible for helping us hire new Scrum Masters. After reviewing hundreds of resumes, talking to a multitude of candidates on the phone, and conducting a number of on-site interviews, I wanted to give you my top ten tips for getting hired as a Scrum Master.
One caveat though. These tips and insights are my own and not that of my company. I provide them in the spirit of sharing and to help you in your job search.
- Know a good job posting. Not all Scrum Master positions are created equally. Many companies might say they’re looking for a Scrum Master, but if you read the job posting closely, they’re really looking for something else, often a project manager. For example, is the posting asking you to author requirements? Do they want you to create detailed project plans? I cannot provide an exhaustive list here, but I would encourage you to read job postings thoroughly and pass over those that aren’t for you.
- Reach out. Do you see a job posting that piques your interest? Can you find one of their Scrum Masters on LinkedIn? If so, ask them about the company and the position. If you can foster a connection, they may put in a word for you with the hiring manager. I look more closely at candidates who take charge of their job search.
- Scrum certifications are only a start. Scrum courses make you informed, but they don’t make you useful. When I look at resumes, I’m not looking at certifications. I look for experience, and I pass on those with no experience, regardless of certifications. Gain that experience by applying Scrum where you work by standing up its first scrum team, for example. You’ll quickly see something I often tell teams:
Scrum is easy. People are hard.
- Dual roles are confusing. I’ve seen many resumes that describe their position as “Project Manager/Scrum Master” or something similar. Those two jobs are very different jobs so which are you? Make it clear on the resume. Don’t make me work for it.
- Know your audience. My 20+ years of experience is summed up on a single page. That’s the entirety of my resume, and much of it is white space to make it comfortable to read. I want to give hiring managers enough detail to be informed but also curious for more. As a Scrum Master, you should know your audience, and your resume is your first opportunity to convey that. Use brevity as a tool to capture attention.
- Make it a conversation, not an interview. The best interviews are those that feel like I’m catching up with old friend, and I need your help to create that environment. Let’s organically change topics. Ask questions if the opportunity arises. Tell me stories about your experiences, about what worked and what didn’t. Quoting the Scrum Guide isn’t very interesting to me. Anyone can learn the Scrum framework; it’s simple. Affecting positive change and creating a learning environment though? That’s hard. That’s what I want to hear about.
- Ask your interviewers for tips. I remember one candidate who asked me for tips before we began a segment of his interview. What a great way to get help! I try to set all our candidates up for success so probe me for advice, and I’ll give it freely.
- Be hungry for knowledge. A Scrum Master who isn’t learning and evolving should find a new line of work. If I ask who inspires you, I hope several names come to mind. I’m sure I’ll have something to learn from you so come prepared to teach me something new.
- “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Wise words from Albert Einstein, and they apply when answering questions. Pay attention to what was asked and then answer it with depth, with simplicity, and succinctly. If my question is unclear though, ask me for more detail or context.
- Be courageous. Some things can’t be taught, and one of those things is courage. It’s an attribute that I believe every Scrum Master should possess. If you come on site, and we show you around, talk to us about the things you see that you’d do differently. We might have a good reason for what we do, but then again, we might not, and if you can see something we hadn’t considered, you’re hired.
That’s all for now, folks. Thanks for stopping by. If you have your own tips for getting hired as a Scrum Master, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.