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How to Ace Your Next Interview

Posted By Meghan Robinson, Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Your Dream Company has just called you in for an interview! You are ecstatic, nervous, and a little unsure of how to prepare.

BREATHE. RELAX. Then follow these simple steps to help you prepare for and land the job you deserve!


Do Your Research:

Make sure you know who you are interviewing with and have well-rounded knowledge of the interviewer and the company itself. Familiarize yourself with their website and social media platforms, such as their Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts. You can search for recent media articles the company has been featured in. In addition to researching facts about the company’s history and their goals for the future. It’s a great idea to look for the company’s corporate annual report. Candidates who have read a letter from the president will gain information to the current status, lingo, and buzzwords of the company that other candidates will not have the advantage of knowing.


Practice! Practice! Practice!

If this is your first big interview, take advantage of your college campus career centers, which usually offer a mock interview service. This service will help you practice your interview skills one on one with a REAL career professional. This is a great tool to gain constructive criticism for future interview improvements. If you’ve had a few interviews in the past, its still worth your time to rehearse in front of a mirror, friend, family member. Sometimes you get completely different perspective when you hear yourselves speak aloud, rather than silently reading the notes you have prepared. Rehearsing will boost your confidence level and help to organize your thoughts in preparation for the real deal!  


Dress to Impress: 

First Impressions are everything! Although many companies have shifted towards a business casual work environment, you still want to look professional on your big day. Its always safe to dress on the more conservative side, and pay attention to the cleanliness of your shoes, hair, and nails! Some recruiters are said to associate dirty shoes, chipped nails, and messy hair, with poor attention to detail.


Express Your Passion & Excitement for the Company:

The passion and excitement you portray for the company is what’s going to set you apart from other candidates. A great way to demonstrate your passion is through behavioral examples of how your passion has lead to positive results in the past. It’s important to relate your passion to every aspect of the interview through words, actions, and behaviors. This will show the interviewer that you are a genuine individual with the ambition to achieve excellence in your role and beyond.



Emphasis How You Can Help Them:

Companies are always looking for someone who will want to grow and evolve with the team. They usually seek a strong team player with exceptional leadership skills. Explain how your previous work and life experiences will help to improve the company’s overall success. In addition, highlight the fact that your fresh ideas will help the company reach short and long term goals.


Tell Stories That Illustrate Your Accomplishments:

Before the interview, prepare a few stories or experiences that illustrate your past accomplishments. Make sure the experiences you decide to share are directly related to the question the interviewer is asking, in other words don’t stray too far from the original question. They don’t want to hear your life story, but they are interested in how you tackle challenges and surpass goals. Relating these questions to a story, will help the interviewer remember you, above the other candidates.



It’s OKAY to Use Notes:

Interviews can be nerve racking, but notes will save the day! Its completely acceptable to use a notebook as your reference to guide you through the interview. You can make good use of your notes by making a short list of stories and points you would like to touch on during the interview. Then ask the interviewer if they mind you taking notes can use that same notebook to take notes, which will show your interest, organization



Ask Insightful Questions:

Prospective employers will always ask if you have any questions to wrap up the interview. Asking a few well thought-out questions will show your interest and enthusiasm for the position. Think outside the box, ask questions the interviewer will remember you by, such as, “Do you see any gaps in my qualifications that I need to fill.” This is a bold question to ask, but it’s original and will set you apart from candidates who ask redundant interview questions.


Close the Deal:

You are your own sales man and the product you are selling is your ability to fulfill their qualifications, solve problems that arise, and propel the company’s success. As the interview winds down, ask the interviewer the next steps in the process and a timeline of when they are looking to hire. If you’re feeling confident – consider asking for the job at the end of the interview!


Thank Interviewers & Follow-up:

Always thank the interviewer(s) in person, politeness and curtesy go a long way. Sending a short thank you email shortly after the meeting is expected, but hand written notes are a lovely touch. You can write the thank you notes prior to the interview and if all goes well, feel free to hand them to the receptionist or secretary after the interview and kindly ask them to deliver the notes to your interviewers before the end of the day. In a highly digital world, hand written notes will give you an edge over other candidates.


By following the steps above, you will be well on your way to acing your next interview!


Good Luck!  
This article was written by Meghan Robinson, AgileCareers & Memberships Coordinator for Scrum Alliance

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You're Invited!

Posted By Meghan Robinson - Scrum, Friday, March 11, 2016


We invite you to embark on a journey at a brand-new event, taking place in Orlando, April 19–20, 2016: the AgileCareers Networking Expo. AgileCareers is the only job board dedicated to connecting Scrum and Agile organizations with qualified, passionate Agile professionals. AgileCareers contributes to Transforming the World of Work by offering a platform that has the tools and technology to help build those professional synergies. 

Attendees will start exploring exhibiting organizations to discuss career opportunities. AgileCareers team members will offer guidance to organizations on how to market their career opportunities to attract top candidates. Employers can schedule interviews with candidates for the following day at the Wednesday AgileCareers Networking Expo. Scrum Alliance® will also showcase features of its new state-of-the-art job site.

Many of the job seekers on AgileCareers have been trained and certified by Scrum Alliance and have achieved their Certified ScrumMaster® certification or Certified Scrum Product Owner® certification. These individuals are ready to join your Scrum and Agile teams! 

Benefits of Attending the AgileCareers Networking Expo 

  • Network with other Agile organizations, schedule interviews, and walk away with highly qualified candidates.
  • Promote your organization's brand as a great place to work.
  • Gain access and exposure at the Agile conference next door, the Global Scrum Gathering® Orlando.

Looking to hire Scrum and Agile Talent? Email us for booth prices - 50% off for a limited time!

Current member looking for job opportunities? Register Now


Tags:  agile  hiring  interviews  job posting  networking  scrumpractices 

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How to Hire an Agile Coach

Posted By Meghan Robinson - Scrum, Friday, March 11, 2016
Updated: Friday, March 4, 2016
Written by Jason Little 


Sally, the recruiter, called me up the other day, “Hey Jackson, I’ve got a great opportunity for an Agile Coach!  I saw your resume said Scrum, something-or-other, and you’d be perfect!! How much do you charge per hour?“.  Jackson had been coaching for a few years and was interested to learn a bit more.  “We’ll get to my rate later, Can you tell me more about what this organization is looking for“, probed Jackson.

Sally proclaimed, “it’s a great company to work for, about 350 people, there is a lot of excitement and enthusiasm about going to Agile, management is 100% fully supportive of it!”.

“That sounds great”, said Jackson, probing a bit further he asked, “can you describe what they are looking for?”

Oh sure,” replied Sally.  “They are looking for an Agile evangelist, someone who can coach executives on how to change their organization, someone who knows how to relate to developers and QA, someone who can mentor all their Project Managers who are now Scrum Masters and somebody who has experience with doing training, empowering self-organizing teams and someone with extensive project management, product management and technical background.  They really need help!

Wow, that sounds like a lot responsibilities, how long have they been ‘doing Agile’?“, a less-than-surprised Jackson said.

Oh, a couple of years, they’re just looking for something to help kickstart them to the next level. It’s a 6 month contract.  What hourly range are you looking for?  They have budget for about $90 an hour“, said Sally.

Interesting“, replied Jackson, “Can you tell me about the structure of the organization, who this coach reports to and what type of work they do?

Sure,” said Sally, “they have a PMO, oh, and you would be reporting into the Senior Manager of the PMO, and they have Scrum teams on the ground who work on their Widget X products, an Ops group, an architecture group, a BA group and a QA group.  You know, the standard Agile stuff.

Sounds like there are lots of handoffs going on based on what you described, I’m guessing they are having some challenges with quality and getting their projects done on time.” , said a concerned Jackson.

Yes, that’s why they’re looking for a coach, someone who can come in and mentor people to help get the quality bar raised.“, said Sally, sounding a little annoyed at all of Jackson’s questions.  “So what’s your rate?  I can setup an interview today if your rate is within their budget.”

Always the curious cat, Jackson agreed to have a call with the company.  “Great!”, exclaimed Sally, “I’ll be in touch!

Does this sound familiar to you?  While I may sound like I’m being a bit snarky towards organizations looking for a coach and recruiters, there’s a whole lot more going on then the words in the fiction-yet-based-on-experiences story above.  I’ll leave that up to you to discuss and I’ll follow up with a more in-depth post later.

Lately I’ve noticed Agile, and Agile Coaches in particular, are getting kicked around on the interwebs.  Everything from the evils of Agile coaching to the hypersensitivity  to tools in Agile.  I’ve seen many tweets about snake-oil salesmen, why nobody but <insert twitter handle here> really gets Agile except me and more.  What seems to be getting lost, IMO, is the Prime Directive: “People are doing the best they can with what they have, which includes skills, training and experience.”  That’s paraphrased of course.  I don’t know any Agile folks I’d consider to be ‘snake-oil’ salesmen.  I know a few that are thought-leaders (well known and not-so-well-known), a few that haven’t figured out how much they don’t know yet and everywhere in between.  The point is, they are doing the best they can with what they know and the skills and experience they have.

So how can you find the right Agile Coach for your organization?  Here’s some tips based on my knowledge and experience.  Your mileage may vary.


  1. Don’t let the first thing you do be hiring a recruiter:

     No that’s not a slight against recruiters, Agile Coaching is a relatively new role and I don’t think recruiters have enough experience in this domain yet.  If you want help with Agile, start with the community.  Find a local user group, online community or reach out to your network.  Implementing Agile takes courage and dedication and if you cannot spend your own time learning or talking to people in the Agile community (FOR FREE BY THE WAY), you are less likely to be successful.  Worse yet, you may develop a mindset that the coach is going to fix everything because, well, that’s what you are hiring them for.
  2. Have a purpose in mind:

     Suppose you’ve followed my advice from step 1.  Have an idea of what problems you want to solve and be transparent about them to your potential coach.  Coaches are smart people and many have training and experience in organizational behaviour, human behaviour and have studied (and used) many meta-models and Agile processes.  They are going to see right through  a smoke-screen like “we *just* need some training for our BA’s that hand off specs to the team” and other non-sensical stuff.  The more transparent you can be the better, the coach will figure this out anyway and you will spend more money while he/she figures this out.  Having a purpose will help define what success looks like.
  3. Be realistic:  The odds you are going to find an expert in organizational change, programming, testing, requirements, project management and the other 30 things you list on your job description are slim….really slim.   If you think having a superman coach is a good idea I’m going to bet that you think this coach is going to come in and magically fix everything by sprinkling some process dust on your organization.   Chances are a coach is going to recommend more coaches or consultants with more specialized skills in certain areas.
  4. Have a budget in mind:

    Coaching isn’t cheap and there’s many reasons for that.  Personally, I spent close to $15,000 on my education last year.  That’s going to training courses, conferences, open spaces, experiential learning workshops etc.  The coaches I know invest in themselves and you, the client, are benefiting from our skills, knowledge and experience.  If budget is constraint, consider options a coach will provide for you.  For example, I was once asked to do a 6 month full time contract to transform an organization at a rate middle-level project managers make.  The skills required for this are much greater than the skills a middle-level project manager have.  Would you hire a CEO to fix your business for $85K per year?   I recommended to use that budget more wisely by not having a 6-month full time coach but instead a front-loaded engagement with recurring touch-points.  That’s one example.  The point is, start a dialogue.  Your policies may state “thou shalt hire contractors in 6-month increments” but don’t let that be a barrier.
  5. Be ready to be challenged:

     A coach is going to challenge your assumptions and your organizational processes and structure.  A good coach will risk getting fired by challenging your status quo and they will do it with respect and professional courtesy.  Be ready for it.
  6. Understand what a coach is:

      It sounds hypocrtical for me to say this given my domain is “” but “Agile Coach” is a made up term.   I don’t know where it came from but it sure sounds cool.  Better than “Agile Consultant” anyway.  Recently Michael Spayd and Lyssa Adkins have been bridging the gap between “Agile Coaching” and, well, actual professional coaching.  Some Agile Coaches may be process specialists only and not understand organizational change.   That described me many years ago.  I learned quickly there is much more to Agile Coaching than meets the eye.  If you want to hire me as a coach, I will have my own expectations of what you want right off the bat simply because you used the word “coach”.  If your intent is to “hire a coach” and put them on a project as a project manager or Scrum Master, you don’t want a coach.  You want a project manager or a Scrum Master.
  7. Don’t try this at home:

     I don’t know how many times I’ve heard, “meh, we’ll do it ourselves” in the software industry.  That’s not only for adopting Agile, that’s for building software.  Meh, who needs a usability person, just get Mr Graphics man to skin it.  Bah-humbug, it’s *just* testing, find something who can work a mouse.  I wish those were fictitious examples.  You will be well-served by a coach and will spend much less on a coach than you will learning the hard way.

Now that you have some tips for finding a coach, what can you expect from one?  Again, this is based on my style and experience.


  1. Some type of assessment:

     A coach needs context which means they are going to ask you lots of questions and will need to talk to people to get a deeper understanding of what problems you are trying to solve.  Different coaches will do this differently.  Personally, I take the Naked Consulting approach, I’m not going to give you a document or outline, I’m going to come and talk to you FOR FREE for a couple of hours and figure out if I can help in the first place.   If your needs and beyond my experience, I’ll help you find somebody more appropriate for your situation.
  2. Front-loaded engagement: Unless you are a large company looking to transition your entire organization, you probably don’t need a full-time coach for 6 months.   Most of the effort with coaching is early on when you are in learning mode.  A coach’s goal is to make themselves obsolete as quickly and efficiently as possible and there are numerous engagement strategies.  If you’re a smaller organization, an embedded coach for a couple months might be best.  If you have multiple teams, up-front training/workshops and facilitation may be better.  If you have been trying Agile for a while, a mentor-ship program might be best.  A coach will help you figure this out.
  3. Metrics and ROI are really hard to figure out:

     It’s reasonable to expect you want some type of assurance that your money spent isn’t a waste.  As far as I know, there’s no success metric for implementing Agile.  Some of the metrics I’ve found useful are escaped defects (how many defects found in the wild after release – which should decline by the way) and net promoter score (how likely will people recommend your product or service).  “Vanity metrics” like in-process bugs fixed (before release), velocity and on-time releases, IMO are less useful, if useful at all.  More than likely the payoff for being successful with Agile is going to come much later.  If you have ideas for some type of Agile success metric, I’d like to hear it.  Wherever possible, tie metrics into business outcomes.
  4. Kind or Brutal Truth?

    Decide if you want the kind or brutal truth.  All organizations have politics, expect a coach to kindly, or brutally, show you the impact your organization’s culture, politics, technology and people are having on your adoption or transformation to Agile.  Sometimes under an incompetent manager is a high-performing team that can’t emerge under a controlling manager who treats his employees like cogs in a wheel.  Given there’s a reason for that behaviour, you can do nothing, try to change the manager, fire the whole team and get team members who thrive under that sort of management, fire the manager, move the manager to another department and more.  There are always many options to consider, a coach will help you consider them by telling you the kind or brutal truth as they see it.
  5. Success Criteria and Visibility:

    A coach will need your help too.  Expect a coach to ask for time for people to learn new skills.  Expect a coach to ask you to set aside budget to send people to conferences so they can learn more.  Expect a coach to be responsible and accountable by making the work they are doing visible in your office.  I like to use an Agile transition war room, or if a room isn’t an option for whatever reason, an open area in the office to be transparent about why the coach is there and what they are doing.
  6. Expect to bring in more people: 

     Pairing isn’t solely for programming.  Different perspective matters and is much more efficient than relying on one person’s opinion.  I’ve solo coached and pair-coached, pairing wins out every time because when I have a crazy idea, a pairing partner can say “hey, that’s a crazy idea, I think this other idea may be a better option!“.  Voila, you’ve just been saved from a 2 week experiment on a crazy idea.  Again, your mileage may vary, you might not need more people, but then again, maybe you will.
  7. All Coaches are Different:

     Personally, I skew on the side of possibilities and people focus.  That is to say my coaching approach is generally skewed towards Agile values and principles.  Some coaches may have a more process-centric approach.  Some coaches may come in and install processes and do training while others may go deeper into your people and culture.  The right approach is the one that works in your context.  I understand that some organizations are built on process and structure. “My Agile” won’t work there and I recognize that and will take a different approach.  Other coaches, despite their personal bias, will do the same.   During one engagement in a highly political and process-heavy environment I beat a Director and Senior manager over the head with values and principles.  It didn’t get me fired but I did a dis-service to that client at that particular time in my career.  When they hired me to “go Agile” I let my personal bias of Agile get in the way of their success.  I am aware of that and have worked very hard to understand culture and people more so I can serve my clients more effectively now.

Above all else, get the phrase “we can’t do that because…” out of your vocabulary.  Agile is change and you would be foolish to expect to adopt Agile without changing your organization.  There’s a reason why Agile is rooted is 4 values and 12 principles.

If you are looking for an Agile Coach, the best thing you can do, in my opinion, is to get involved with the Agile community first.  You will learn a lot.  You will meet coaches.  You’ll be pointed to many books and resources that can help you figure out what you really want.

Finally, you need to be dedicated to making it work.  A coach will help you discover problems and will work with you to experiment with solutions, listen to them, decide on reasonable business outcomes that shape what success looks like and be ready for some bumps along the way.


This article originally appeared on Agile Coach

Tags:  agile  agile coach  hiring 

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The Right Way to Scale Agile: Scaling Value Delivery over Process

Posted By Meghan Robinson - Scrum, Wednesday, March 9, 2016

There is not one way to scale agile. 

In order to find the right way for you organizations you need to understand what you are trying to achieve and create a process that works to deliver that outcome. This article shows how organizations can help teams remain true to agility and deliver value as they scale Agile — whether from top-down or bottom-up — without following a one-size-fits-all process.

Click below to read the full article by Suzie Prince: 

The Right Way to Scale Agile: Scaling Value Delivery over Process 


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Six Tips for Interviewing Scrum Masters, Part 1

Posted By Meghan Robinson - Scrum, Wednesday, March 9, 2016
Updated: Friday, March 4, 2016

Six Tips for Interviewing Scrum Masters, Part 1

People want to know the “secret sauce” for hiring Scrum Masters and agile coaches. I wish it was easy to provide a standard set of questions.

Because your agile team is unique, your questions should be different. However, there are some common qualities, preferences, and non-technical skills among Scrum Masters.

First, do a job analysis for your Scrum Master. I have met teams who needed an agile project manager because no one was in the same place. I have met teams who needed an account manager, because they were consultants. I wrote about this problem in Which “Scrum Master” Are You Hiring? I also did a potential job analysis for a servant leader/Scrum Master in What Do You Look for in a Servant Leader or a Scrum Master? The chances of this being the correct job analysis for your Scrum Master are not so good, given what I see in organizations.

Tip 1: Define Your Scrum Master’s Deliverables

Since every team and organization I work with is unique, you need to do your own job analysis. You do. For the sake of argument, let’s assume the Scrum Master has these deliverables:

  1. Coach team(s). (If you want to be a great Scrum Master, look at Michael James’ Scrum Master checklist. A great Scrum Master coaches one team.)
  2. Facilitate team meetings and Scrum rituals.
  3. Ensure information radiators are up to date.
  4. Looks at the team’s process and sees if the team need other radiators.
  5. Advocates for the team.
  6. Identifies and removes team impediments.
  7. Coaches on agile practices.
  8. Helps team see what they are doing to see how they can improve.
  9. Coaches on technical practices.
  10. Helps the team become self-sufficient.

You are not going to ask questions about each of these deliverables. However, you would use these deliverables to create an audition.

Tip 2: Define Your Scrum Master’s Essential Qualities, Preferences, and Non-Technical Skills

Note that I said the essential qualities, preferences, and non-technical skills. Maybe your Scrum Master needs fewer than what I have below. Maybe you are starting a transition and your Scrum Master needs more. Maybe you need something different.

You would use the essential qualities, preferences, and non-technical skills to create behavior-description questions:

  • Initiative
  • Flexibility
  • Communications
  • Resilience
  • Determination
  • Perseverance
  • Ability to find another option
  • Recognition of management power, but not intimidated by it
  • Ability to use that power

Notice that these are all interpersonal skills. A Scrum Master works with people—people in the team, people in management, people across the organization. It’s all about the people.

If you have desirable qualities, preferences, and non-technical skills, note them. If you have two candidates who are “equal,” you may decide to use the desirables to decide between the candidates.

Tip 3: Define Your Scrum Master’s Essential Technical Skills

I have trouble with with teams who need a Scrum Master who understands tools and technology. That’s missing the point of a servant leader. I understand Scrum Masters who understand the domain—that’s understanding the risks and helping management understand why they need to remove obstacles. But, if the Scrum Master is getting involved in the coding or the testing or the UX design (or whatever), the SM is not facilitating the entire team.

If you define too many technical skills, the Scrum Master is not making sure the Product Owner is available to see the team’s progress on stories. The SM is not making sure the PO is making stories small. The SM is not making sure the team is delivering something of value every single day, or more often. The SM is not helping the team review their process if the SM is doing the technical work of the team.

Be very careful if you have a SM who is a working member of the team. I say this in Hiring Geeks That Fit:

Don’t ask people—managers or not—to work at the strategic and tactical levels. No one can. The tactical, day-to-day issues win. Always. Or, the strategic work wins. But they can’t both win. Never.

A Scrum Master takes a more strategic look at the team’s work than a team member does. That’s because the SM facilitates the process. That’s by design.

Johanna Rothman, known as the “Pragmatic Manager,” provides frank advice for your tough problems. She helps leaders and teams see problems and resolve risks and manage their product development. She is the author of more than 300 articles and 10 agile books. Her most recent book is _Agile and Lean Program Management: Scaling Collaboration Across the Organization_. See more of her writing at

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