5 Agile Coach Interview Questions

HOW TO INTERVIEW SOMEONE FOR AN AGILE COACH POSITION?

The Agile Coach role is not new and seems to be on a roll. Despite the buzz, do people really know what it takes to actually be one? Are recruiters aware of what skills they should be looking for? How would you conduct an interview with one? And as a candidate, how could you stand out and increase your chances?

Based on the list of current open positions on LinkedIn Jobs, my experience as an Agile Coach trainer, and of attendees on AWA’s ICAgile-Certified Team Coach course, here is my take on “5 Agile Coach interview questions”!

THE AGILE COACH ROLE

Back in the 2008 report “Rolling out Agile in a Large Enterprise”, Gabrielle Benefield shared how Yahoo was already including Agile Coaches in their rollout. Despite its longevity, there still exists a lot of varying perspectives about the profession:

  • What does an Agile Coach do?
  • How does it differ from Professional Coaching? Mentoring?
  • To whom he/she should report to?
  • How it relates to/differentiates from a Scrum Master?
  • Where inside an organization does an Agile Coach act?

Just a few days ago, Arlindo Lima, who is conducting a recruitment process, asked me this:

“What questions would you ask candidates of an Agile Coach position?”

At first, I did not know what to say… I’d never thought about this before or had any hiring responsibility for another Agile Coach. Being an ICAgile Team Coach Authorized Instructor, I felt that this topic deserved more thought, attention, and research. So I went… Job Hunting!

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A WHOLE WORLD OF AGILE COACHING

Using only LinkedIn Jobs, at the time of writing (2019/07/25) these are the numbers for open positions with “Agile Coach” in their title:

United States --> 733
Germany --------> 415
France ---------> 197
United Kingdom -> 108
Brazil ---------> 56
Canada ---------> 42
Argentina ------> 40
India ----------> 40
Austria --------> 26
Singapore ------> 25
Chile ----------> 24
Australia ------> 22
Portugal -------> 17
Mexico ---------> 13
China ----------> 13
South Africa ---> 12
Norway ---------> 4
Russia ---------> 3
Japan ----------> 3

// General 
European Union -> 1060
Worldwide ------> 2204

IT IS INTERESTING TO SEE THAT:

  • 48% of the positions are from the entire European Union and 33% just from the US;
  • Many of them have “Agile Coach” and “Scrum Master” as two parts of the same position;
  • Without the “title only” restriction, results like “Hybrid Role Product Owner/Scrum Master/Project Manager”, “Senior .Net Developer”, “Oracle Consulting Program Manager”, “Fullstack (Coach) Developer (m/f)”, and many others were quite common;
  • Using different job search engines (Indeed, Reed, Totaljobs, local engines, etc) yield different numbers but with were similar proportions across the countries.

Clearly, the role is on the rise. In fact, just in the last two days, there are 103 new positions. Despite all this buzz, the description of the positions doesn’t seem to be aligned between themselves or with international bodies of knowledge.

WHAT DO AWA AND ICAGILE THINK AN AGILE COACH IS?

The International Consortium for Agile (ICAgile), founded in 2010, is a leading global agile certification and accreditation body that cultivates an agile mindset and enable sustainable organizational agility.

ICAgile co-creates with the community and thought leaders Learning Journeys (Tracks), each of them containing a set of Learning Objectives (LO’s), which are verifiable principles, skills, and practices appropriate for different Agile disciplines:

ICAgile Learning Roadmap

Within those disciplines, companies who would like to provide accredited courses for any of those Tracks and LO’s can apply to became an ICAgile-Accredited Member Organization, and Adventures with Agile (AWA) is one of them.

AWA is a global community of practice for organizational change, founded in 2014 by Simon Powers. In our internationally acclaimed 3-days ICP-ACC course, we focus on the mindset and main pillars of Agile Coaching, based on our backed experience in Professional Coaching, Agile/Lean Practices, and Organizational Change.

With a down to earth and slideless methodology, we address, discuss and practice real-world scenarios and concepts, and right at the beginning of it, we ask the attendees to share what questions, concerns or challenges they would like to have answered by the end of the third day, placing Post-Its in a wall that usually turns out like this:

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No one… and I mean literally no one, leaves the class without having all their topics answered. We really do our best so people can go back to their work-life with the answers they were looking for.

After I categorized 550+ Post-Its, from all our attendees over dozens of ICAgile-Certified Agile Team Coach courses during the last couple of years, the top 5 topics/questions AWA have answered are:

  1. What is Agile Coaching?
  2. How Professional Coaching relates to Agile Coaching?
  3. What originates and how to deal with resistance?
  4. What are teams, and how to support and serve them?
  5. How do deal with and resolve conflict?

WHAT QUESTIONS TO ASK AN AGILE COACH THEN?

Since these are the questions the attendees themselves mostly raise, it seems user-centric to base the interview questions on them:

  1. What are the differences between Professional Coaching, Mentoring, Facilitation, Teaching & Consulting? When, where and how do you use each?
  2. What is the difference between a Scrum Master and an Agile Coach?
  3. Imagine a Team that does not want to move to Agile, what would you do? And what about a Senior Leader resisting Agile? How would you tackle it?
  4. What would be the difference between Agile Coaching a new, immature team and a mature team?
  5. Which side would you take if there was a conflict between Management and an Agile Team? How would you solve it? What about a conflict between team members? What would be your approach?

Interested in becoming an ICAgile Certified Professional in Agile Coaching? Join our next cohort…!

WHAT ARE YOUR ANSWERS?

If an airplane cabin loses pressure, the security instructions are for you to place your oxygen mask first, and only afterward help others. This happens because you can not help anyone passed out due to lack of oxygen, only becoming a burden to the other passengers.

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So before asking those questions to a candidate, what are YOUR answers? What for you, your organization or the client you represent think about all this? How will you be able to recognize a fitting candidate if you do not know what to validate against?

ARE THESE QUESTIONS ENOUGH?

Asking questions is one way for getting to know a candidate in an interview… but it’s not the only way, and certainly not the most effective for all scenarios/positions. Certainly, being in the recruitment field for long enough, you have probably misjudged a candidate (for better or worse) based on the answers they provide (or the questions you made).

The ones I have shared are just a sample based on our audience feedback and what we feel are the most demanding and differentiator factors of an Agile Coach.

What do you think of them? What other would you add?

INTERESTED IN KNOWING MORE ABOUT AGILE COACHING?

“Probably the best training I have been to ever!” – Annette Kristin Bø Andreassen, Program Manager / Agile Coach

“If you’re thinking about hiring an Agile coach or are about to become one, do this course first.” – Jaedan Edman, Business Transformation Consultant

“… an excellent course for anyone who is an agile coach or moving towards… it fills the gap between a traditional coaching course and the Scrum Master course…” – Jackie Sherwin, Product Owner / Coach

“This is the first training course I haven’t fallen asleep in. Every minute of the course was engaging, informative and fun.” – R. Jarrat, Delivery Manager

Whoever has the responsibility or desire to improve the motivation, productivity, efficiency and especially the results of an organization/team will find value in what we share in the course.

Agile Coaching is too important to leave to (only) the Agile Coaches, it’s is a complex adaptive approach to support people on their journey of improvement, which requires a good base of knowledge, practice and most importantly, people touch and aptitude. Join us and get those skills in one of the next editions of the ICAgile-Certified Agile Team Coach in Chicago, London, Lisbon, Porto, or Oslo!

Interested in becoming an ICAgile Certified Professional in Agile Coaching? Join our next cohort…!

A SPECIAL THANKS

This article would probably not exist if it wasn’t for Arlindo Lima reaching out to me and making that powerful question. It was my first time writing an article based on a question someone made me, and it was an awesome journey. Thank you Arlindo.

Now to the community, as a recruiter or candidate, please comment here what do you think about those questions or if you would add or do different ones. Or if you would like to have another subject being researched and written upon related to Agile Coaching (or not), please reach out, it would be great to try this again.