In this article, we will go over some of the basic agile interview questions focusing largely on Scrum, the most popular form of Agile. We will cover agile interview questions and answers for experienced practitioners as well as novice candidates, touching on agile methodology interview questions along with agile project management interview questions.
I will also review items that are important for different members of a typical Scrum team, from the Product Owner or Scrum Master to agile interview questions for testers and Dev Team members. I will provide the answers to the different questions, but more importantly, I will highlight what you need to focus on when answering these questions as well as the keywords and concepts (highlighted by a *).
To learn more about Agile Product Management, create your perfect resume so you can get to the interview, and interview preparation tips so you can be ready for your interview, please read:
<span style="color: #ff6f48;”>What is the difference between Waterfall and Agile Methodology?
Whenever you get interview questions on agile methodology, this one is bound to come up.
Waterfall is a more traditional process of project management where the solution is first planned out with detailed requirements defined for the entire solution (or at least a large majority of it) before the actual work of developing the solution is started.
Image source: https://www.seguetech.com/waterfall-vs-agile-methodology/
The steps of the *waterfall process happen in a sequence* and once a step is completed it can’t be done again without breaking the process. In Waterfall, the users generally don’t get a working product or any significant benefit from the product until the project or a major phase of the project is completed.
Agile is a more modern approach that focuses on developing complex solutions that have changing requirements; it leverages *incremental* delivery with each increment producing a usable product or functionality.
Agile also leverages *just-in-time documentation* which focuses on limiting the wasted effort of documenting requirements for features that may change.
The major difference between the two methodologies is the amount of documentation that is done upfront before the actual work of development is started.
In Waterfall, the up-front documentation is significant and attempts to be as complete as possible for the entire solution.
Agile focuses on only documenting the initial part of that solution that will be worked on.
<span style="color: #ff6f48;”>What are the advantages of Agile Methodologies over Waterfall Methodologies?
Agile project management interview questions will often come in the form of an advantage/disadvantage tradeoff. For example, “Agile methods mostly focus on which of the following options and what are their advantages and disadvantages as opposed to Waterfall Methods?”
The main thing you want to focus on in this question is the *adaptability to change* and *improved ability to deal with uncertainty* of the Agile methods.
If the full set of requirements for a project can’t be determined at the beginning of a project or if the solution may have to quickly be adjusted based on the actions of competitors.
The incremental structure of the Agile methods provides a much more flexible format which allows opportunities to pivot while still providing useful features throughout the project’s development.
<span style="color: #ff6f48;”>What type of project would an Agile Methodology work best for and why? And what type of project would Agile not work best for and why?
It used to be said that projects which utilize Agile mostly focus on digital/app development and were largely relegated to the domain of startups and tech giants like Google and Facebook.
However, in today’s highly competitive, innovation and the technology-ladened world, all industries are leveraging the adaptive nature of Agile methodology.
The important thing to focus on when answering this agile methodology interview questions is the project context:
- Is the solution you will be developing during this project well defined?
- Are there requirements that may change?
- Will it benefit the stakeholders and users to have partially complete features of the product?
- Is the project going to take such a long time that the market may change and your solution will need to change with it?
Projects, like digital development and product innovation, where frequent prototyping is required are generally more conducive to the Agile methodologies.
Waterfall, on the other hand, is better for projects which have very stringently defined requirements that must be planned upfront and have a very low chance of changing like construction or a mass-produced physical product.
<span style="color: #ff6f48;”>What is the relationship between Agile and Scrum?
Interview questions on Agile will often include some sort of relationship comparison between Scrum and Agile.
The important thing to focus on here is that *Scrum is a type of Agile*.
<span style="color: #ff6f48;”>What are the 3 main pillars or foundational ideas of Scrum?
The important thing to focus on while answering this interview questions on agile methodology is that Scrum focuses on *Empiricism* and making sure that:
- Everyone on the project and stakeholders have all the needed information to make informed decisions whenever they need it (Transparency).
- Everyone on the project is consistently checking to make sure the work is done in the most efficient way possible and aligned with the needs of the user/organization (Inspection).
- The appropriate people on the project have the opportunity and authority to make changes in the planned work of the project to adapt to changes or inefficiencies identified through inspection to optimize the team’s work from both a value delivery and efficiency perspective (Adaptation).
<span style="color: #ff6f48;”>What are the Roles of Scrum and what are they responsible for within the Scrum process?
- Product Owner – Maintains/Prioritizes the Product BackLog, gathers product requirements, represents the needs of the User/Stakeholder.
- Scrum Master – Manages the Scrum process and makes sure that the team is following the Scrum principles correctly to ensure efficient team operations.
- Dev Team – all technical personnel on the team from tech Leads and Architects to Developers, Data Scientists, and QA Personnel.
<span style="color: #ff6f48;”>What are the Scrum Ceremonies and what is the purpose of each?
- Daily Standup – a 15-minute daily meeting of the Dev Team where each member updates the other members on their progress toward achieving the Sprint Goal and any impediments.
- Sprint Planning – a meeting where the team discusses and plans the items which will be worked on in the upcoming sprint.
- Demo Meeting – a meeting where the Scrum Team and Stakeholders come together at the end of a sprint so that the Dev Team can demo the work they have completed in the Sprint.
- Retrospective – a meeting after the Demo where the team discusses things that worked well and did not work well from a process and tools perspective during the last sprint and determines how to improve moving forward.
<span style="color: #ff6f48;”>What are the Standard Artifacts in the Scrum process and what is the purpose of each?
Artifacts are objects which help keep things organized and answer the question of how work should be allocated to the team in an agile project.
- Product BackLog – Collection of *prioritized* items which need to be worked on.
- Sprint BackLog – Selected items from the Product BackLog which the team will work on in the sprint.
- Increment – The *functional product/feature* which the team develops in the sprint.
<span style="color: #ff6f48;”>What is a User Story, Epic, and Theme?
Projects that use Agile mostly focus on work efficiency and just-in-time documentation. Teams don’t create extensive technical documentation before starting development; instead, they use non-technical formats like user stories to provide the necessary information to create the functionality.
- User Story – It is a way of describing a small piece of work that the team will commit to developing *described in a way (a story) that non-technical individuals can understand* the value that will be generated by the work completed.
- Epic – A *large User Story or Collection of User Stories* which have dependencies and make up a larger functionality.
- Themes – Categories or groupings of related User Stories and Epics which don’t have interdependencies but *provide an overarching focus of the organization*.
What is a Product Roadmap?
Image source: https://www.projectmanager.com/blog/design-a-product-roadmap
The product roadmap is a list of functionalities and features which the *team plans on developing in the future.*
There are many ways to create roadmaps and a lot of different information as well as detail that can be included, with the most common being general timeframes for expected delivery with respect to the agile team size and resources available.
Consider taking courses that go over creating product roadmaps to feel more confident.
<span style="color: #ff6f48;”> What are Story Points?
Story Pointing is an estimation tool that leverages *relative estimation* typically in a *Fibonacci* sequence to enable teams to quickly determine how much work a feature will take and focus on actually developing the work.
This, of course, helps determine how work should be allocated to the team in an agile project as well as the agile team size.
<span style="color: #ff6f48;”> What is a Cross-Functional and Self-Organizing Team?
Cross-Functional teams are teams comprised of *members with skills in different domains.*
The self-Organizing team is an Agile concept which dictates that *teams do not have or need a manager;* the *members of the team determine what needs to be accomplished* and are responsible for accomplishing it.
A possible interview question can be structured around which of these best describes the agile approach to team-working?
The answer to this question is both are required.
<span style="color: #ff6f48;”> Why is the Increment such an important idea in Scrum
Interview questions on agile methodology often reference increments due to this artifact’s importance in Scrum because Agile is built around developing small pieces of functionality (increment) across multiple sprints or iterations which combine to produce the larger solution.
<span style="color: #ff6f48;”> What are the key principles and skills for an Agile Tester?
Agile interview questions for testers are typically used for interviewing QA Teammates or when agile interview questions and answers for experienced practitioners are required.
However, interview questions on agile testing do come up in standard interviews from time-to-time.
When agile testing interview questions come up, it is important to mention that testing starts by working with the Product Owner of the team to develop comprehensive *Acceptance Criteria* for the User Story. Then *build Test Scenarios and Test Cases against that Acceptance Criteria.*
Many Agile teams also leverage *Automated Testing* to make it easier and more efficient to maintain the speed and efficiency that Agile strives for.
<span style="color: #ff6f48;”> What is the Minimum and Maximum Length of a typical Sprint and why?
Agile methodology interview questions on Sprint length are very common because the Sprint length differs from organization to organization.
The important thing to remember is that Sprints should generally *not be shorter than 2 weeks* and should *never be longer than 4 weeks.*
*Sprints for each team must be the same length* so that Team Capacity can be accurately calculated based on the Team Velocity.
<span style="color: #ff6f48;”> What is the goal of every Sprint in Scrum?
Not to be confused with the Sprint Goal, which is the primary value that the team plans to deliver by completing the work committed in the sprint.
The goal of every Sprint in Scrum is to *produce a complete functional increment* which can be released by the product owner and will provide specific value to the users.
<span style="color: #ff6f48;”> What is a Burndown Chart and what is its purpose?
The Burndown Chart *displays the team’s progress based on completed work* throughout the Sprint against the total estimate of all the work the team committed to completing in the sprint.
Contrary to popular belief, the Burndown Chart is not a standard Artifact of Scrum; however, it is extremely important in determining how work should be allocated to the team in an agile project, agile team size, and Team Velocity to help project capacity moving forward.
<span style="color: #ff6f48;”> What is the Velocity of a team and why is it important?
The Velocity of the Scrum Team is an understanding of the *amount of work the team as a whole generally can complete during a Sprint.*
<span style="color: #ff6f48;”> What is Scaled Agile?
Agile methodology interview questions for *large organizations* will often include basic questions on Scaled Agile or Enterprise Agile.
Large organizations tend to work on *initiatives which are too large for any one Scrum Team to complete* and *manage portfolios* with multiple products which are worked on by many Scrum Teams.
In these interviews, it is at least good to be familiar with what Scaled Agile is and the most common methodologies such as SAFe, LeSS, and Nexus.
The most important thing to understand is that these frameworks provide a *general structure for managing a portfolio of Products with multiple Scrum Teams* working simultaneously and sync up releases.
This way combined functionality with increments from the different individual Scrum Teams can be released to the users as one major feature or update.
Experiential & Thinking Questions
Agile interview questions and answers for experienced practitioners or team leaders will often include an experiential question which asks the interviewee to describe a past experience or situation and how they handled it.
This is used to make sure the candidate can demonstrate actual experience, get a practical feel for how the candidate handles certain situations, and more importantly, what mindset does the candidate approach situations with.
These questions often come in the form of:
Tell me about a time when you:
- Overcame a problem and how?
- Succeeded against the odds?
- Led a team?
- Dealt with a team conflict?
- Handle Stakeholder conflict?
Remember that you can always get ready for the interview by reading this post.
The most important thing about answering these questions is to have a well-practiced, thought-through example which provides detail and shows an ability to empathize, not blame, organize, and come up with solutions that benefit the team as well as the project while showing leadership, professionalism and maturity, good communication, and creativity where appropriate.
About the author:
Over the last 15 years as an Organizational Leader and Agile Product Manager Eduard Drozen has seen first-hand the transition from Waterfall to Agile Project Management which has swept across the business world.
Eduard Drozen has helped Fortune 500 clients develop and optimize products using a multitude of Agile Methodologies and transitioned entire departments as well as offices around the world to be more Agile leading to increased responsiveness, adaptiveness, and effectiveness.
Eduard has helped hire Agile Managers and build entire Agile Teams, changing the way companies operate and think.
Hopefully, these agile interview questions and answers help you land your dream job utilizing this powerful methodology and feel free to leave a comment regarding this article below or connect with me on LinkedIn.