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Tips to Choosing A Great Scrum Master

How do you choose a great Scrum Master? What are the skills of a great Scrum Master?

Let’s be honest there are very few great Scrum Masters out there.The reason for this must be a topic for another day. Fornow,let’s focus on how you can hire a great Scrum Master based on our years of experience in the field. We believe understanding the skillset required of a competent Scrum Master is where everything starts.


 Skills of a Great Scrum Master

If we have a deeper look into the Scrum Guide, it explains how a Scrum Master role is to serve the product owner,development team and the organisation. Your potential candidate needs to be knowledgeable about scrum master responsibilities and possess the following skills:

– Mastering Scrum Framework

– Facilitation of scrum team members

– Communication

– Problem-solving

– Hight coaching ability to help teams collaborate and promote progressive teamwork

– People skills in managing all stakeholders and team members

– Instilling the agile mindset to create self-organising teams

– Empathy

– Highly-tuned listening skills

– Observational prowess

– Conflict resolution

– Adept at being a trainer and facilitator

– Adaptability, as team roles and product parameters go through different iterations

– Mentoring

– Being a change agent within the organisation

There is no university that educates Scrum Masters, so how do you make sure you find the best Scrum Master for you?

How to Spot anExcellent Scrum Master CV

To gain the Scrum Master skills mentioned above takes long, and there is no specific education that teaches it all. So how do you spot a great Scrum Master?

To become excellent in your Scrum Master roletakes a journey of upskilling and growing each of the above skills. This journey is not easy and has to be combined with a great deal of passion to be achieved.

So, should you look for in a CV? These are my personal tips on what I do when hiring Scrum Masters. I firstly look through the CV to spot the journey of growth. I look for the following:

  • Is there a journey of upskilling and growth?
  • What skills have been grown?
  • What courses have been attended for this?

What Certification and Courses to Look for on a Scrum Master CV

Based on years of experience in the field, I have my own favourites that I look for. There are many Scrum courses and certifications out there and you will get a different answer depending on who you ask. My personal preferences and professional outlook are based on more than theoretical Scrum practices.

First, I look for the skill of Scrum Framework mastery. Mastering Scrum comes with practice as a Scrum Master, but I also want to see if a person’s understanding of Scrum is correct. Their knowledge can be based on Scrum Master certification such as the CSM – Certified Scrum Master from Scrum Alliance. This is my personal favorite because:

  • Scrum Alliance is a globally recognized certification.
  • Scrum Alliance is a non-profit organization, so a percentage of what you pay for your certification goes back into the agile community that Scrum Alliance supports.
  • One thing Scrum Alliance supports is User Groups all over the world. If you are based in South Africa, Scrum Alliance supports Scrum User Group South Africa (SUGSA). They offer free meetups with national Scrum teams; and access to other Scrum events which can help you on your journey to becoming a great Scrum Master.
  • To become a Trainer for the Scrum Alliance takes a lot, and it is difficult. Why is this a plus? Because when attending Scrum Alliance Certifications, you are sure it is world-class trainers giving the courses and not just a person who has done a 2-day course. Scrum Alliance Trainers are highly skilled and exceedingly experienced.

It is not enough to look at Scrum Master certifications, so what then? There needs to be evidence of other courses that have grown the skillset such as facilitation, coaching, and training skills- those are keys to success.

You can pay attention to certifications and courses like: TBR -Training from the BACK of the room. The certification provides skills in facilitation, training, and deeper understanding of the human mind.

An IC Agile certification such as Agile Team Facilitation, Agile Coaching Certification and of course the follow up of the CSM certification, A-CSM (Advanced Certified Scrum Master) and CSP-SM (Certified Scrum Professional Scrum Master) are also worthwhile avenues to explore.

Another part that is often forgotten in the journey of a great Scrum Master is to understand other agile frameworks. A great Scrum Master needs to know other agile frameworks to help optimise the way people work, and here you can look out for XP, Kanban, SAFe, etc.

SAFe even has a SAFe Certified Scrum Master certification that is a great add-on to the CSM path.

 Should You Only Look for Certifications? 

No… A great Scrum Master is much more than certifications and courses. I use this as a basis for a good CV to see the journey a Scrum Master taken. All great Scrum Masters go on a journey to upskill themselves. But a genuinely great Scrum Master is found through a person’s personality. A person’s personality is more likely to show in an interview. In an interview I look for soft skills such as:

  • Communication
  • People skills
  • Agile mindset
  • Empathy
  • Listening
  • Observing

In general, I have a conversation with the Scrum Master to see if they have the mindset of a servant leader.

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