The news of unexpected redundancy hit me in mid-June and on that
day I learned that I would be out of work by the beginning of
August. For the first time in my adult life (also known as an
eternity), I won't be working. It's usually not something to be
very cheerful about and I wasn't. By the end of July, I had
somewhat brushed up my CV and, quite worried, looked forward to
the challenges ahead. If you look at my profile, you might
understand why -- I had had a bit more than a year as a Scrum
Master with my previous company and I definitely felt I needed
more experience under my belt to be competitive in the market. The
good thing is I was raised in a team of great people who had
helped me understand what makes Scrum work and through our
failures together we had a good grasp of what Scrum is and what
By mid-August, I restructured my CV so that it highlights some of
the skills that might be able to set me apart on the market. It is
November now and my job hunting journey has come to an end. I have
been in contact with 75 companies and in many cases I applied for
several roles within the same organisation. For the sake of
simplicity, multiple applications submitted to the same company
will be regarded as one here.
Before we jump in the data head first, I really want to place a
disclaimer here: the data presented can, by no means, be
considered to be a true reflection of a regular Scrum Master's job
seeking process in general. It rather reflects my own journey with
all the caveats and pitfalls -- and learning.
Yes, learning. I really wanted to learn something through this
lengthy and sometimes nerve-racking process and share it for the
benefit of many so I made sure to keep all the records of my
applications. As my search is now winding down, I put all my data
in a sheet and created some nice graphs to visualise my findings.
Buckle up, here we go.
I'm looking forward to hearing from you
I started applying to positions nearly immediately when redundancy
hit which means I might have applied to roles I was not exactly
qualified for -- sometimes it was due my own desperation but more
often than not the job descriptions were not clear enough. It
should come as no surprise at all that only one out of five
applications were made through referrals or recruiters who
contacted me with roles.
As a consequence of the above and also due to the nature of job
hunting, I was only mildly surprised that
two thirds of my applications received no response at
all, while some applications were rejected outright. To be honest, I
am quite grateful for these letters of rejection -- at least I, as
an applicant, am not held in limbo about the status of my
sending a letter of rejection to candidates is definitely a
field where I think companies could do better. It would take hardly any effort to send a template to
applicants stating that they were 'not considered on this
So there was no response sent for two thirds of my applications;
however, nearly one in four applications did receive a response,
and before digging deeper, I really wanted to find out if there is
a correlation between the responsiveness of companies and whether
the applications were submitted by me, by recruiters on behalf of
me or through referrals -- mainly former colleagues or
acquaintances whose current companies were hiring Scrum Masters or
people in my profession in general.
45% of applications made by recruiters were picked up by
prospective companies, whilst this rate is merely 16% if you are a
random applicant from LinkedIn like me. To put it an other way,
applications through recruiters were three times as likely to
raise interest with prospective employers. Also, all applications that were made through referrals were
picked up in my case. Thank you folks, indeed!
Theoretically then, you just need a good network to land on
interviews eventually, right? Well, this is not necessarily the
case as the next graph will show:
It is true that your network and recruiters representing you have
better chances to start your phone ringing, but if you are
relentless you will easily outperform them. Looking at the numbers
only in this graph, you will see that more of my own applications
were picked up than recruiters' and referrals' applications
It's great to hear from you!
What I was also eager to find out is the response rate in general:
how long does it take for companies to come back to us mere
80% of the companies that get back to you, do so within 14
calendar days, and 75% of those wanting to take the process
further responded in just seven days.
Half the companies that were definitely interested in me
responded the day after my application was submitted.
I hope to meet you soon!
Finally, let's see how well those interviews went. For the sake of
simplicity, I broke down the interview types as follows:
Initial interview: The first point of contact with the company
-- usually with an internal or external recruiter working for
your future employer. You get to know a bit about the role and
the company, and then you chat about your CV. Nothing too
Phone interview: This is when you get to speak with some
like-minded folk, in most cases they are your future colleagues
or would-be boss. This is now the real deal, you do get into the
nitty-gritty of agile. For us Scrum Masters, the discussion is
about your agile experience but it is not uncommon to face
situational questions as well in addition to Scrum theory and
Agile methodologies in general.
F2F interview: Finally, you get to meet face to face. This step
takes a few hours and you will talk to a wide range of people --
usually in a few rounds. Mostly, these stages are completed on
the same day so you speak with a few product owners first then,
after a quick break, you continue with some Scrum Masters or
Agile Coaches, etc. Depending on the company, you might be
invited back one more time to meet a senior manager but in most
cases this step is just an additional sanity check -- the
decision is likely to have been made by then.
Once you have completed all the interviews, you may or may not get
an offer which you may or may not accept. So without any further
ado, I present to you...
... this chart which shows the stages that I completed during my
job hunting journey. Mind you, each stage builds on the previous
one, the "Phone Interview" stage means that I have successfully
sailed through the initial interviews, and the "F2F Interview"
also implies that I have concluded the initial and phone interview
stages. I hope this is clear. So let's see the main findings:
I passed two out of three initial interviews which basically means
once my application was picked up, I was likely to get to the
more agile-focused interview steps, and I was more or less comfortable to whizz through the phone
interview stage as well.
About half the time when a company responded to my application,
I was invited into their offices for a face-to-face
Obviously, this is when parties have the opportunity to discover
one another. Recruitment should really be a two-way street: it is
not only about them finding out if they would want to work with
you -- you also need to be positive about wanting to work with
them. You need to be enthusiastic about going to work in that
office with those people; otherwise, it cannot really be a
fruitful and healthy work relationship.
And finally, the good news and a powerful reminder for the future
for me is that
about one in five of those casual chit-chats with the lovely HR
person over the phone will actually lead to an offer from that
Finding your next role can be a real struggle at times. It is a
wild, wild roller coaster with completely unexpected ups and downs
and dips and incredibly tight turns. One thing is sure, however:
the ride will come to an end eventually, and you will take one of
those offers, probably to your own professional benefit as well as
to the benefit of the company you will work for.
To conclude, here is what I learned:
Dear Companies, brush up your hiring processes a bit please. If
you have shortlisted 25 candidates you want to move forward
with, let the others know that you are not going to consider
their applications. It means the world to us. Really. Thanks.
Recruiters work. Or maybe it was just me that was lucky, but I
was three times as likely to receive a positive response to an
application when it was submitted by a recruiter. Nevertheless,
you must apply relentlessly as well.
They will reach out soon, if they want to talk to you. This
point may be related to the first one. If you don't hear back
for two weeks, chances are your application has been binned.
In my case, half the time my application was picked up, I landed
on a face to face interview, and about a third of those
interviews ended with me getting an offer in my hand.
I know it is not easy at times but have faith in yourself. If I
can do it, anyone can do it.