Example Interview Questions for Agile Masters / Agile Coaches: Get Hired

Oct 3 / Thomas Bartelsen
You have applied for a role as an agile master/coach and soon is the day of your first interview. It would help if you had guidance about what to do or are anxious about what to expect and how to prepare. Don't worry, we're here to help you out. 

We understand what it takes to be successful as an agile master/coach and are committed to helping our candidates achieve their goals. Firstly, let's talk about your general preparation for the interview. 

If you are looking for more generic information on the terms and what you might expect, check out this blog "to understand different interview types and who is involved in your hiring process. 

Likewise, we recommend this blog article on how to nail your interview before you arrive and how to enhance your job search abilities. 

If you are still trying to determine whether this job suits you, check out this blog post about evaluating the proper salary per job. 

Check out this blog on assessing compensation to compare salaries between different offers and locations. Now, having all the basics out of the way, let's start with the typical structure you might encounter.

A potential structure of an onsite interview

Now, having all the basics, let's start with the typical structure you might encounter for an first interview. 

Arrival and Check-In: When you arrive at the interview location (if it's an onsite interview), you must check in with the receptionist or a designated contact. They may ask you to fill out paperwork, provide identification, or wait in a designated area.

Meeting the Interviewer (s): After checking in, you'll typically be escorted to the interview room or office, where you will meet the Interviewer or panel of interviewers. They will introduce themselves, provide information about the company, and explain the interview process. 

Interview Questions: The primary part of the interview involves the interviewer(s) asking you a series of questions. These questions vary and often cover your background, experience, skills, and qualifications. The interviewers may also ask behavioral or situational questions to assess how you handle specific scenarios.

Behavioral Assessments or Exercises: Depending on the job and company, you may be asked to participate in behavioral assessments or exercises. These could include skills tests, role-play scenarios, or problem-solving tasks.

Questions for the Interviewer: Toward the end of the interview, you will typically have the opportunity to ask questions. Preparing thoughtful questions about the company, the team, the role, or the organization's culture is a good practice. This shows your interest and engagement.

Conclusion and Next Steps: The interviewers will usually explain the next steps in the hiring process. They might provide a timeline for when to expect to hear back from them and how the selection process will proceed.

Thanking the Interviewers: It's customary to thank the interviewers for their time and express your continued interest in the position. This is also an opportunity to reiterate your enthusiasm for the role.

Departure: After thanking the interviewers and receiving additional information, you'll be escorted back to the reception area or directed to leave the premises. Make sure to maintain professionalism until you've entirely left the interview location.

Please note that each stage's specific order and details can vary depending on the company and the nature of the job. Following any particular instructions the employer provides during the interview process is essential. Specifically, with a first interview conducted via phone or via a conferencing tool such as Microsoft Teams, the first phase does not exist, so sometimes interviewers start with chit-chat initially. 

Now, let us focus on job-specific questions.

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This could be your ideal job that you find

So let´s assume you find this role description.

An Agile Coach plays a crucial role in guiding teams and organizations in their Agile adoption and improvement efforts. Here are five tasks typically associated with an Agile Coach:

Team Facilitation: Agile Coaches facilitate and support Agile ceremonies such as daily stand-up meetings, sprint planning, sprint review, and sprint retrospectives. They help teams stay focused, ensure that traditions are productive, and promote collaboration among team members.

Training and Education: Agile Coaches provide training and educational sessions to help team members and stakeholders understand Agile principles and practices. They may conduct workshops, offer mentoring, or develop training materials to promote a better understanding of Agile concepts.

Continuous Improvement: Agile Coaches work with teams to identify areas of improvement and help them implement changes that enhance their Agile processes. They use metrics and feedback to track progress and make data-driven decisions to optimize workflows and delivery.
Conflict Resolution: Agile Coaches often act as mediators when conflicts arise within teams or between team members and stakeholders. They help resolve disputes, promote healthy communication, and ensure that everyone is aligned with Agile values and goals.

Change Management: Agile Coaches assist organizations in transitioning to an Agile mindset and culture. They help leaders and teams embrace Agile principles and practices, aligning the organization with Agile values. This includes addressing resistance to change and promoting a more adaptable and responsive environment.

These tasks demonstrate the diverse responsibilities of an Agile Coach in promoting Agile adoption, fostering collaboration, and ensuring continuous improvement in Agile teams and organizations.

For this role, relevant qualifications could be

A minimum of four years of professional experience is required in the roles of Agile Coach or Scrum Master with in-depth change management experience.

A performance-oriented mindset is essential, demonstrating the capability to empower teams to unlock their full potential.

You should possess the competence and a willingness to assume various roles as necessary, including coaching, mentoring, training, consulting, mediating, or facilitating.

Prior experience with project management tools, particularly JIRA, is highly desirable.

Active listening and practical communication skills are essential, with proficiency in both German and English being preferred.

Additional qualifications that would be advantageous include a foundational understanding of software development life cycles.

What type of questions am I gonna get?

The SBO interviewing technique stands for "Situation, Behavior, Outcome." It is a structured and behavioral interview method that helps employers or interviewers assess a candidate's past experiences and how they have handled specific situations or challenges. The SBO technique is designed to delve into a candidate's behavioral history and gain insights into their problem-solving skills, decision-making abilities, and how they handle various scenarios.

Here's a breakdown of the SBO technique:

Situation (S): In this step, the interviewer asks the candidate to describe a specific situation or context from their past experiences. The candidate should provide details about the circumstances, including the setting, the people involved, and any challenges or obstacles they faced.

Behavior (B): The candidate is then asked to explain their behavior and actions in response to the situation. What did they do, and how did they approach the problem or challenge? This part of the response should focus on the candidate's actions and decision-making process.

Outcome (O): The final part of the SBO technique is the outcome. The candidate should discuss the results or consequences of their behavior and actions. This might include the impact on the team or organization, what was achieved, and what they learned from the experience.

The SBO interviewing technique is effective because it encourages candidates to provide concrete, real-life examples from their past that demonstrate their skills, abilities, and competencies. By probing candidates for specific situations and asking about their behavior and the outcomes, interviewers can gain a deeper understanding of how a candidate will perform in the future. This technique is often used to assess a candidate's soft skills, such as problem-solving, leadership, teamwork, adaptability, and communication. It helps interviewers make more informed hiring decisions by focusing on a candidate's past performance and actions rather than hypothetical scenarios or general responses.

Now, how could an interview go?

Matt: Good day Sam! Thank you for joining us today for this interview. Let's start with a brief intro. I am Matt, and I've been working with Company X since 2011. My job is Transformation Director, and you'd be part of a multicultural team as we have Agile Coaches for every country to pave the way for change. My team comprises 40 Agile Coaches worldwide. We do on-site quarterly and otherwise do weekly standards. We work with OKRs, so essentially, how you reach a goal is up to you. This role is a new position as our site in Germany has been growing intensively. A colleague can't take it over anymore as we need somebody to take care of it full-time.

Can you walk me through your CV, highlighting your relevant experience and qualifications related to the role of an Agile Coach?

Sam: Certainly. I have a background in Agile coaching and Scrum mastering with a strong focus on change management. I've spent the past four years working as an Agile Coach at Company X, successfully guiding multiple teams in adopting Agile methodologies. During this time, I have honed my skills in team facilitation, training, continuous improvement, conflict resolution, and change management, aligning with the key responsibilities you've outlined for this role. I have a proven track record of improving team collaboration, productivity, and delivery outcomes.

At Company X, I've conducted various Agile ceremonies, ensuring they remain productive and fostering collaboration among team members. I've also designed and delivered Agile training sessions and workshops for team members and stakeholders, helping them understand Agile principles and practices. Continuous improvement is a core part of my approach; I've worked closely with teams to identify areas for enhancement, implement process changes, and track progress using metrics and feedback.

As for conflict resolution, I've mediated in several instances where conflicts arose within teams or between teams and stakeholders, promoting healthy communication and alignment with Agile values. Additionally, I've played a pivotal role in driving organizational change towards an Agile mindset and culture, working with leadership to embrace Agile principles and practices.
I'm also proficient in JIRA and have used it extensively for project management.

My communication skills are well-developed, and I am fluent in German and English. While I have a strong foundation in software development life cycles, my primary focus has been on Agile coaching and Scrum mastering.

Matt: Thank you for that overview. It's great to see your relevant experience. Let's move on to more specific questions now. Could you please share an example of a time you facilitated a team in a challenging Agile ceremony? How did you ensure the meeting was productive and promoted collaboration?

Sam: Certainly. At Company X, a team faced challenges during their sprint planning meetings. There needed to be more alignment, and discussions often went off track. To address this, I took the following steps:

Situation: The team's sprint planning meetings could have been more productive, leading to better sprint execution.

Behavior: I started by organizing a retrospective with the team to identify pain points and challenges in the sprint planning process. We realized that the team needed a shared understanding of the sprint goals, which caused confusion and misalignment during the meetings.

Outcome: To address this, I introduced a pre-planning session where the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and team members gathered to clarify sprint goals and expectations. I facilitated discussions during the sprint planning meeting, ensuring everyone had a voice and that discussions remained focused on the sprint goals. This approach significantly improved the team's sprint planning meetings, resulting in better alignment and more productive ceremonies.

Matt: That's a great example of your facilitation skills. Agile Coaches often need to educate team members and stakeholders on Agile principles. Can you share when you provided Agile training and its impact on the team's understanding and performance?

Sam: Of course. At a previous company, I encountered a team transitioning to Agile from a more traditional project management approach. The team members were new to Agile and needed a solid foundation in its principles. Here's how I addressed this:

The team needed a clearer understanding of Agile principles, affecting their ability to adapt to the new methodology.

Behavior: I designed and delivered a series of Agile training sessions tailored to the team's needs. I used practical examples and interactive exercises to illustrate Agile concepts, ensuring team members could apply these principles.

Outcome: The impact was significant. After the training, the team displayed a better understanding of Agile, which led to smoother sprint executions, improved collaboration, and more predictable deliveries. They also started to embrace Agile values, such as transparency and customer focus, in their day-to-day work.

Matt: That's a clear example of the positive impact of your training efforts. Agile Coaches often work on continuous improvement with teams. Can you provide an instance where you identified an area for improvement, implemented changes, and tracked progress with measurable results?

Sam: Certainly. In my previous position, I worked with a team that needed help with a consistent flow of work and frequent bottlenecks. Here's how I approached it:

Situation: The team's work could have been more stable due to bottlenecks, leading to missed sprint goals and frustration among team members.

Behavior: I conducted a value stream analysis to identify the bottlenecks and waste in the team's workflow. This involved mapping the entire process and visualizing where work was piling up. We used cycle time and lead time metrics to pinpoint the problem areas.

Outcome: By implementing a pull-based system and introducing work-in-progress limits, we reduced the bottlenecks and improved the workflow. Over a few sprints, we measured the cycle time and lead time and observed a significant reduction. This resulted in more predictable deliveries and increased team satisfaction.

Matt: It's great to see your ability to drive process improvements using data-driven methods. Agile Coaches often mediate in conflicts. Can you provide an example of a dispute you successfully resolved within or between teams and stakeholders?

Sam: Certainly. At one point in my role, there was a conflict between the development team and the product management team regarding the prioritization of features. Here's how I addressed it:

Situation: The development team felt that product management frequently changed priorities without considering the team's workload. This led to frustration and tension between the groups.

Behavior: I started by organizing a series of one-on-one and group discussions to understand both teams' perspectives. Clearly, there needed to be more communication and alignment on the product roadmap and priorities.

Outcome: I facilitated a workshop where both teams collaboratively defined clear prioritization criteria and established a regular communication cadence. This improved transparency and trust between the groups, leading to smoother development processes and better alignment with the product roadmap.

Matt: Excellent demonstration of your conflict resolution skills. Finally, Agile Coaches often play a role in change management. Can you share a situation where you assisted an organization in transitioning to an Agile mindset and culture, addressing resistance to change and promoting adaptability?

Sam: Certainly. At a previous organization, senior leadership needed more support for transitioning to Agile methodologies. Here's how I helped address this challenge:

Senior leadership needed to be more resistant to adopting Agile methodologies, viewing them as disruptive and unnecessary.

Behavior: I initiated a series of one-on-one discussions with key stakeholders to understand their concerns and perspectives. I used data and case studies to illustrate the benefits of Agile, emphasizing its potential to improve delivery, customer satisfaction, and adaptability.

Outcome: Over time, I worked closely with the leadership team to develop a gradual transition plan that allowed them to see the benefits of Agile in a controlled manner. We started with a pilot team and gradually expanded Agile practices. As results became evident regarding faster delivery and happier customers, the leadership team became more receptive to Agile principles. Eventually, the entire organization embraced Agile, resulting in improved responsiveness to market changes and customer needs.

Matt: Thank you for sharing that experience. You have valuable skills in change management. Your responses have provided great insight into your qualifications for this role. Is there anything else you'd like to add before we conclude the interview?

Sam: I appreciate the opportunity to discuss my qualifications and experiences. I'm highly motivated to continue guiding teams and organizations in their Agile adoption and improvement efforts. I believe my track record and skills align well with the requirements of this role, and I'm excited about the possibility of contributing to the success of your organization in this capacity.

Matt: Thank you for sharing your experiences and qualifications. Before we conclude, I'd like to ask a few more questions:

Salary Expectations: What are your salary expectations for this role?

Sam: I would like to discuss the salary in line with industry standards and the specific responsibilities of this role. Could you provide a salary range or additional information about the compensation package?

Matt: We can discuss compensation further in the following interview stages. However, if you name a ballpark, I can tell whether this is in range.

Sam: My salary expectations fall between €70,000 to €80,000 in total cash compensation, contingent upon the comprehensive package offered.

Availability: Can you provide information about your availability for this role, including your notice period, if applicable?

Sam: I'm on a one-month notice with my current employer, but I'm open to discussing the start date to align with your needs.

Matt: Thank you for the clarification. Now, we'd like to know if you have any questions or need more information about the role or the company.  Do you have any questions or need additional information about our organization or the expectations for this role? 

Sam: Yes, I do have a few questions. Can you tell me more about the team structure and the specific Agile methodologies or frameworks your organization predominantly follows?

Matt: Our teams primarily use Scrum and Kanban, and the structure includes cross-functional teams. What other questions do you have?

Sam: I'd like to learn more about the organization's employee growth and development approach. How does the company support professional development and advancement?
Matt: We have various programs and opportunities for professional growth, including ongoing training and development plans. What's your next question?

Sam: One more question: Can you describe the company's current Agile maturity level and any ongoing initiatives to improve it?
Matt: That's a great question. Our current Agile maturity level is intermediate, and we have ongoing efforts to enhance it further.

Sam: Thank you for providing those insights. I appreciate the opportunity to ask these questions.

Matt: You're welcome. Thank you for your questions and for participating in this interview. We will contact you soon regarding the next steps in the hiring process. Have a great day!

Please remember this is an example of what could happen as interview (style) vary vastly from company to company.
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