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Questions Scrum Master Candidates Should Ask Startup Companies/



Michael is a software engineer and startup growth expert with 10+ years of software engineering and machine learning experience.

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Questions Scrum Master Candidates Should Ask Startup Companies

The Scrum Master role has become increasingly popular with the widespread adoption of Agile, and startups are adopting Scrum at earlier stages, making it necessary for them to hire professionals. However, not all startups are created equal, and Scrum Masters must be able to identify the ones that suit their skillset. Here are five questions Scrum Master candidates should ask during interviews to determine the most realistic environment and expectations for potential employers.

Why Are You Hiring a Scrum Master and Not a Project Manager?

Asking this question will help Scrum Master applicants understand the expectations for the role. For instance, a newly formed company might need guidance on implementing Scrum to deliver its minimum viable product (MVP). It is crucial for the Scrum Master to know the scope of the work and the level of Agile maturity of the startup as early as possible, ideally even at the interview stage.

The interviewer’s response to these questions will define their expectations for the Scrum Master position. It is vital to understand that the Scrum Master is not a manager who dictates what to do but a servant leader who provides an environment where the team collaborates autonomously. The Scrum Master role involves optimizing the individual strengths of the team to perform at their best and achieve their goals.

What Is the Leadership Style of the Startup Founders?

It is crucial for Scrum Master applicants to understand the leadership style of the core group within the startup as they will need to collaborate with management at least on a weekly basis. The founders’ leadership style will make the applicant more prepared in terms of stakeholder management. It is essential to figure out how the founders deploy their vision on a practical level, and this will enable the applicant to understand how to best tailor their approach in the future.

Founder Traits to Look Out For

Founder Traits to Look Out For

Scrum masters must also be aware of different founder traits that could impact their work. Some startup founders are highly technical and may focus more on the architecture and design of the product, but may lack organizational skills. In some cases, founders may still be doing some development work themselves. This can make it difficult for scrum masters to suggest changes to their approach without facing potential resistance or resentment.

On the other hand, non-technical founders may be more concerned with “getting things done” and take on the responsibilities of a product owner without being professionally trained in Agile practices. This can lead to mistakes, such as introducing new items during a sprint or not spending enough time to validate product assumptions.

By understanding the leadership style and traits of the startup’s founders, scrum masters can better tailor their approach to the company’s needs and avoid potential roadblocks.

Importance of the Founder Sign-On

Adopting Agile requires a cultural change within a company, emphasizing team collaboration, continuous learning, empowerment, and customer interaction. Scrum masters should communicate this clearly to startup founders and gauge their reaction to exchanging some level of control for more team empowerment.

Asking about the startup’s current software development process can also help scrum masters assess the level of technical agility. Small startups may require the scrum master to wear several hats and be involved in requirements analysis, functional testing, and other software development activities.

Do Employees Get Any Regular Feedback?

Another important part of the scrum master role is coaching team members to excel as Agile professionals. However, startups may lack comprehensive feedback mechanisms, making it more impactful to create opportunities for team members to receive feedback on their professional and soft skills.

During the interview process, scrum master candidates should discuss feedback mechanisms with startup founders to set expectations for their involvement in setting up these processes. Conversely, candidates may find that some formal and informal feedback procedures are already in place, which can be used as a framework for suggesting improvements.

How Would You Define Your Company Culture?

Agile is a mindset and not just a project management methodology. A transition to Agile means adopting a new mindset of interaction, customer collaboration, and being able to respond to unpredictable changes as embodied in the Agile Manifesto.

The scrum master is at the forefront of this cultural change, and discussing the company culture during the interview process can help initiate this change. While gaining information about the company’s culture is important, this question is more about initiating the cultural change that comes with Agile adoption.

In adopting Agile, a startup’s culture does not need to be completely subverted, but it may need to be modified or enhanced to incorporate new values. Having this discussion early on can help scrum masters keep the record straight and refer back to it when faced with opposition to implementing changes.


Scrum masters play a crucial role in helping startups adopt Agile and Scrum methodologies to improve team performance and achieve their goals. By asking specific questions during the interview process, scrum master candidates can better understand the startup’s needs, level of Agile maturity, and potential roadblocks.

Asking about the leadership style and traits of the startup’s founders, why they are hiring a scrum master instead of a project manager, and the company’s culture can help scrum masters tailor their approach and initiate cultural change.

Additionally, discussing the startup’s current software development process and feedback mechanisms can help scrum masters assess their level of technical agility and coaching opportunities.

By carefully considering these factors, scrum masters can find the right startup for their skill set and help them transition to Agile methodologies successfully.