From Bad Scrum Master Job Descriptions…
Let’s be honest – I roast companies and recruiters for posting terrible Scrum Master job descriptions. And there are a number of reasons why I do it.
One of the main reasons is that I want to keep the integrity of this profession. Because Scrum Master’s role is easily misunderstood and is often misinterpreted. As an agile consultant and Professional Scrum Master, I personally want to play that role, instead of some other role when I join a company. I do not want to work on things that I do not believe are aligned with my interests, skills and expectations of the job. Even more so, I do not want other people to be misaligned with what the job is really about.
Let’s illustrate it for better understanding.
Imagine you want to be a chef at a restaurant, so you apply for a job advertised as a “Chef”, but on your first day of work your boss tells you that they actually need you to only write about good food, not to make it. While both roles are equally important in different settings, you had clear expectations about the job – you want to cook food at a restaurant.
Now imagine the whole restaurant industry suddenly started to advertise the “Food writer” job as a “Chef” job instead. More and more employers expect you to be a good writer and never give you an opportunity to cook food. Your skills are now somehow misaligned with the job you were trained to do and everyone is convinced that you are just too rigid to accept it. Not only that, but restaurants are now struggling to find good candidates – somehow all the chefs applicants come with no writing experience.
My goal when highlighting bad Scrum Master job descriptions is to make it clear: a chef is a chef, and a writer is a writer. Let’s not mix them up and hire people for the jobs you actually need.
This chef-writer example also uncovers a second reason why I do it: to reduce money and time wasted on finding the wrong people for the wrong jobs. This eventually negatively impacts the whole industry, and it is disheartening to see.
…To Good Scrum Master Job Descriptions
While roasting bad job descriptions is a lot of fun, it is not very helpful. That’s why I want to turn it around and give it a more positive spin.
I’ll tell you that there is one single piece of advice that can help you write good Scrum Master job descriptions every single time and it will take you 1 minute to implement.
Are you ready?
There is one very good place that has a perfectly written job description for a Scrum Master: the Scrum Guide. Just copy it “as per Scrum Guide”.
Honestly, this will be the best Scrum Master job description on the market and it will help you attract the right candidates for the role.
Do you find the Scrum Guide explanation of the role too vague? There is the Scrum Master Action Plan that can help you understand the responsibilities and daily tasks of a Scrum Master. As a future (or current) colleague of someone in this position, you better have visibility on what to expect from your peers and subordinates.
Since the Scrum Master job is pretty defined for people working in the industry, and a simple copy-paste from the Scrum Guide can do, you might want to consider other things to include in your job description.
I would encourage you to focus on describing the situation in your company.
- What are the teams working on and what is the team composition?
- How familiar are your teams with Scrum and other agile frameworks and practices?
- Based on your self-assessment, where is your organization on your agile journey?
- What are the biggest challenges you would like the Scrum Master to help with?
You see, Scrum Masters know what the job entails, so what can really attract them is your company’s situation, instead of the job itself.
As in my earlier example, as a Chef you might want to go work for a different restaurant not because the job itself will be different, but because of everything around it: the type of food to cook, customers, management, location, etc.
Experience and Skills
Another thing you might need to consider is the previous experience.
I often see job descriptions that ask for 7 years of successful agile project delivery (whatever that means) to be a Scrum Master of a team. That’s not only unnecessary but can also be harmful.
I had an opportunity to work with amazing Scrum Masters who only had 6 months of experience! And I worked with some awful “Scrum Masters” who claimed to have 10 years of agile experience.
For the good or the bad, years of experience in this field are much less important than the skills and personal traits of the person you hire.. I talk about it in my video “4 traits of amazing Scrum Masters”.
To be a great Scrum Master you need to be a strong servant leader, humble but assertive, great facilitator, coach and teacher, feel comfortable with conflict and organized. I can write a full article about it (and some day I will).
When you write the job description, think more about what kind of person you’d like, not how many years of experience they’ve collected. Because passion for the role with the right traits always writes off the lack of experience.
Do You Really Need a Scrum Master?
Now, let’s cover something even more important than the job description itself: the needs of your company.
Do you find the Scrum Guide description not “complete”, or even “incorrect”? Do you want to add many more other defined responsibilities?
Then I have to ask you: are you sure you need a Scrum Master?
Maybe there is another role that exists outside of Scrum that would normally fulfill these responsibilities.
If you find yourself writing the responsibilities of a traditional Project Manager under the Scrum Master job description, I’d wager you need a Project Manager, not a Scrum Master.
The worst would be if you actually hire for this job:
- If you hire a Scrum Master, he’d be miserable doing Project Manager’s job with no appropriate skills, knowledge and interest in it.
- If you hire a Project Manager, she’d hate to be called a Scrum Master and not be taken seriously as a Project Manager.
- If you are unsure about what type of role you really need fulfilling, ask an expert in the field.
Job Description is only the first step
Writing the job description is only step one of the process – it can help you attract the right candidates. But you also have the interview process. If you don’t know how to evaluate a good Scrum Master, you might end up getting the wrong person anyway.
Save your organization (and yourself) some time and money by reaching out. Whether it is to a friend, a colleague, or to an external consultant. And I do not mean a recruiting consultant, I mean an expert in the field of Scrum.
I have years of experience in the Scrum Master role and I am a recognized Professional Scrum Trainer with Scrum.org. I can help your organization to find the right people to support your agile transformation, whether it is hiring them externally or mentoring internally.
If your organization needs help I provide customized agile consulting, so just reach out for a free consultation and set your organization on a success path of Scrum.