Tips for recruiting your 1st Scrum Master

This could be the most important hire you make this decade, your first Scrum Master will set the tone for Scrum in your organisation, so it’s important to get it right. However, if you’re hiring your first Scrum Master, you’re probably just starting your Scrum and agile journey, so you are probably as least equipped as you will ever be to make that hire effectively. Brilliant isn’t it. Here are my top tips to help you get started:

1)  You are not alone.

There are plenty of agilists on linkedin, twitter and other platforms. Ask them what their favourite ever SM Job description looked like and you’ll get loads of help. You might even find someone helping who would make a great first Scrum Master…. or someone who you can contract in to help you interview the candidates.

2)  Scrum Masters need to know Scrum and people.

They don’t need tech skills that match the team, they don’t need industry experience  in your very specific field, they need to understand Servant Leadership and enabling the team and organisation. The Developers need to be the experts in their field, the Product Owner needs to understand the business context, the Scrum Master needs to understand how to enable the team to reach its potential.  Look for terms like “It depends” and “I’d take it to the team” in interview questions as a positive sign.  You don’t want a Scrum Master who has all the answers themselves, you want a Scrum Master who can enable the rest of the Scrum team to come up with the answers. A great Scrum Master is always trying to make themselves redundant from the team.

3) There is no Best Practice here.

While there are good practices in how you adopt Scrum, your Scrum Master needs to understand that what worked elsewhere might not work here. The context and people are both different from the last organisation they were at. You cannot successfully copy and paste someone else’s Scrum implementation. Your first Scrum Master needs to be adaptable and resilient. Applying Scrum at each organisation is a complex undertaking and is always different. Find people who can handle that with grace and elegance. Find people that are fine with getting things wrong and learning from mistakes, rather than projecting that they always get things right first time every time. Scrum is a framework that relies on constant experimentation, and if you’re doing it well, then experiments turn up negative as often as they turn out positively

4)  Don’t be cheap.

As this is probably the most important hire you will make in the next decade. The first Scrum Master will set the tone for Scrum adoption in the organisation. They will be involved at all levels of your organisation, not just the Scrum Team.  You want the best you can find, not the cheapest. There is a common saying about monkeys and peanuts. Paying more doesn’t always equate to getting better, but paying less and settling isn’t usually a cheap move in then end.

5)  Product Owners matter too.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you only need to hire a Scrum Master to get started with Scrum. The PO is probably the most overlooked team member when organisations start adopting Scrum. Make sure you are hiring or training that person well, as a great Scrum Team needs great Developers, a great Scrum Master and a great Product Owner. Unlike the Scrum Master, they do need industry and even organisation knowledge, so it often makes sense to train an existing person rather than hire them in. But in that case, guess who has a lot of additional work helping them learn and understand their new role… the first Scrum Master of course.

6)  Read the Scrum Guide

If you want to be successful hiring a Scrum Master, then it would certainly help if you understand a little Scrum yourself. It’s only 12 pages long and it’s free at Feel free to take the (free) Scrum Open Assessment at Scrum.Org to test your understanding and help you learn. The more you understand Scrum, the more likely you are to hire the right kind of person to form the vanguard of your Scrum implementation.

7)  ….and repeat

Great Scrum Masters tend not to work in isolation, they need a support network of peers to lean on when things get hard. Be prepared to hire Scrum Master #2 soon after #1. The good news is that now you will have a Scrum Master to help you do it.