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Top 50 Product Owner Interview Questions You Need To Know In 2019

Published on Sep 16,2019 76 Views

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Scrum is a powerful framework for implementing agile processes in software development and other iterative projects. From a business point of view, one of the most vital roles of any Scrum team is the Product Owner (PO). Although Product Owner is often considered the most difficult role in Scrum, becoming a Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) is a relatively easy task. Are you planning to make a career as a product owner? Go through this article on top 50 product owner interview questions that would help you get a step closer to your dream of becoming a product owner.

Given the growth in the fame of the Scrum Framework, it should come as no surprise that this growth is also fueling an unprecedented demand for Scrum Certification Training. Let’s begin by taking a look at the most frequently asked questions in Product Owner Interview Questions.

For better understanding, I have divided the rest of the Scrum Master Interview Questions into the following sections:

Technical Product Owner Interview Questions

The questions under this category are all core technical questions based on Agile, Scrum Framework, and Product Owner related. By asking these questions you are being tested on the subject knowledge and technical expertise in the field.

Beginner Level Product Owner Interview Questions

This section of Product Owner Interview Questions will cover all those basic questions that you might come across when attending a scrum job interview.

Q1. Are Agile and Scrum the same? What is the difference between agile and scrum?

Agile is a set of methods and practices based on the values and principles expressed in the Agile Manifesto. Scrum is an Agile framework for handling roles, events, artifacts, and rules/guidelines to implement the Agile Mindset. The table below lists the key differences between Scrum & Agile.

FactorsAgileScrum
Nature & ScopeAgile is a mentality and a set of principlesScrum is a framework that implements agile principles
PlanningPlanning occurs at three levels: release planning, iteration planning, and daily planningNext sprint is planned after the team has completed the current sprint activities
Flexibility to ChangesAgile is very flexible and hence adapts to changes very quicklyRigid framework & there is no much room for frequent changes
Design & ExecutionAgile execution is quite simple and it usually something that isn’t done beforeWorks on trying new and creative ideas, which yields concise and smart outcomes
Monitoring ProcessRequires detailed tracking & it takes place after every milestone of the overall designMonitoring takes place after compilation of certain features rather than after each design
Leadership Role A leader is accountable for the work done (or not done) by the teamThere is no ‘team leader’, instead its fosters a multi-functional and self-organized team
Mode of CommunicationThe effective mode of communication is face-to-face within a team on a regular basisCommunication is done on a daily/weekly basis with respect to the schedule
Estimation Time & DeliveryThe priority is always to satisfy the customer by providing continuous delivery of valuable softwareDelivers build to clients to get their feedback, after each sprint
Customer FeedbackEncourages regular feedback during various processes from business usersRegular feedback is taken from end-users but in a more orderly fashion, like after every sprint

Q2. When is it advised to Agile Model? Is it suitable in all situations?

A flexible model like agile can be applied in scenarios like, when:

  • New changes need to be implemented in between development cycle
  • Working on complex and bigger projects
  • There are long term goals and no bound on requirements
  • Have to quickly launch the product to market
  • There are frequent changes throughout the development cycle
  • There is no limit on time and budget

Q3. What is the Scrum Framework?

Scrum is one of the most popular and lightweight agile framework, within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value.

ScrumLogo - Product Owner Interview Questions - Edureka

It’s different from the waterfall model in the following ways:

  • Feedback is received at an early stage
  • Minimizes risk in response to changes
  • Focus is on collaborative development
  • Increases return of investment
  • Allows to rollback changes

Q4. What is a Sprint in Scrum?

This is a very common question asked in product owner interviews. Scrum sprint is a regular, repeated work cycle in scrum methodology during which work is completed and made ready for review. Generally, the duration of a scrum sprint depends upon the size of the project and the number of people working on it. On average, the duration of a sprint lasts about 4 weeks.

Scrum Process - Edureka

Q5.  Is the product owner a member of the Scrum Team?

Yes, Product Owners are considered to be a member of the Scrum Team. Each Scrum Team will have a single Product Owner responsible for prioritizing work items for the Sprint Backlog.

Q6. What are the different roles in the Scrum Team?

The three roles involved in scrum are as follows:

Scrum Team - - Edueka

  • The Product Owner is responsible for the work the team is supposed to complete. The main role of a product owner is to motivate the team to achieve the goal and the vision of the project.
  • The Scrum Master ensures that all the team members follow scrum’s theories, rules, and practices. They make sure the Scrum Team has whatever it needs to complete its work, like removing roadblocks that are holding up progress, organizing meetings, dealing with challenges and bottlenecks.
  • The Development Team(Scrum Team) is a self-organizing and a cross-functional team, working together to deliver products. Scrum development teams are given the freedom to organize themselves and manage their own work to maximize the team’s effectiveness and efficiency.

Q7. Define the product owner role?

This is usually one of the initial questions, which will give the interviewer the opportunity to understand the exposure of the candidate.

Scrum Product Owner is responsible for maximizing the value of the product resulting from the work of the Development Team. However, how the Product Owner accomplishes this can vary widely depending on many factors, including the team, the business stakeholders, and the development processes of the organization. Their job is to act as the proxy of the customer, prioritize the backlog, answer or get answers to the team’s queries and accept/reject the work that the team generates. 

Q8. What is the product?

In scrum interviews, this can be a very basic question. A product is something (tangible/non-tangible) created through a process to benefit a group of customers and to the organization that provides it. It can be anything from a chair, a painting, or it can even be just an idea.

Q9. Can the Product Owner and Scrum Master be the same person?

No. Remember that the Product Owner should never act in the Scrum Master role. These two roles have conflicting goals and should never be merged. Mixing them can have a very negative effect on the development process. Both roles require 100% involvement. Scrum Master, at times, needs to act as a mediator between the development team and PO when their goals start to diverge. In such a case, if the same person is acting as both, there will be a conflict of interest, which will affect the team’s progress.

Q10. What is a Product Roadmap?

A product roadmap is a high-level visual summary that maps out the vision and provides strategy and plan for product development. It’s driven by several short and long-term company goals and communicates how and when the product will help achieve those goals. Also, it reduces uncertainty about the future and keeps product teams focused on the highest priority product initiatives.

Q10. Describe what happens in the sprint planning meeting?

A sprint planning meeting is a meeting in which all the scrum roles (product owner, scrum master, and development team) have a discussion about the team’s priority features and product backlog items. It is a meeting where the work to be done during a sprint is mapped out and the team members. During sprint planning, the entire team clearly defines deliverables for the Sprint and assigns the work necessary to achieve that goal.

It is an event where you can get answers to the following questions:

  • What can be delivered in this Sprint iteration?
  • How to achieve the work that needs to be completed in a sprint?

Q11. What is term velocity in agile? How is it measured?

Velocity predicts how much work Agile can complete in a sprint and how much time will it require to complete a project. The number is obtained by adding all the story points from the last sprint’s stories.

Q12. What are the desirable qualities of a vision?

Vision basically is a goal you set for your organization, the product or even for yourself. Some desired qualities of the vision are:

  • It should be clear and firm
  • Extensive and appealing
  • Brief and concise

Q13. What are the characteristics of a good Product Backlog Item?

Product Backlog is a document that outlines the list of tasks and every requirement that the final product needs. Good backlog exhibits certain characteristics and the DEEP criteria are useful for determining if a product backlog has been structured in a good way.

A good product backlog item should be DEEP:

  • D – Detailed Appropriately
  • E – Emergent
  • E – Estimated
  • P – Prioritized

Q14. Vision, Strategy, and Roadmap. We keep using these words, but what do they mean? 

Vision basically is a goal you set for your organization, the product or even for yourself. A Vision Statement describes the desired future position of the company. There are three elements which constitute a vision on a broader level, the purpose, the picture, and the values.

The strategy is a system of achievable goals and visions which describes who the customers are, how the product fits into the current market, and how it will achieve business goals. In contrast to the product vision, which should have a lifetime of many years, a product strategy is typically seen to look at a horizon of months to a few years.

The roadmap describes what products and features will be built to realize the strategy and vision, who is responsible for building those product features, and, sometimes, an estimate of when those products and features will be released.

Q15. What is term velocity in agile? How is it measured?

Velocity predicts how much work Agile can complete in a sprint and how much time will it require to complete a project. The number is obtained by adding all the story points from the last sprint’s stories.

Q16. What are the qualities or characteristics of a good product owner?

A good product owner is someone who is:

  • Knowledgable
  • Quick Decision Maker
  • Efficient Communicator
  • Conflict Resolver
  • Excellent Researcher
  • Superb Leader

Q17. What is Product Increment?

The product improvement is the sum of product work completed during a Sprint combined with all work completed during previous sprints. Important point is that the increment must be in useable condition regardless of whether the Product Owner decides to release it or not. It is one of the most important artifacts used in the scrum framework.

Q18. What is a user story in Scrum? How does a good user story look?

In agile, a user story is a tool used in Agile software development that represents a small piece of business value that a team can deliver in a sprint. It creates a simplified description of a user’s requirements. A user story is defined incrementally in three stages:

  • Who are we building it for, who the user is? — As a <type of user>
  • What are we building, what is the intention? — I want <some goal or objective >
  • Why are we building it, what value it brings for the user.? — So that <benefit, value>

 A good user story should be Independent (I), Negotiable (N), Valuable (V), Estimable (E), Small (S), Testable (T).  In short – INVEST.

Q19.What is the difference between the Product Manager (PM) and Product Owner (PO)?

The terms are often used interchangeably, and admittedly there is some overlap. Yet, those two are indeed different roles.

PO vs PM - Product Owner Roles & Responsibilities - Edureka

  • Product managers are more strategic. They focus on the product’s vision, company objectives, and the market. Mainly, they are accountable for strategic roadmaps and business outcomes.
  • Product owners are more tactical. They translate the strategies into actionable tasks and work with cross-functional agile teams more closely to make sure they are executing on those requirements accordingly. In simple terms, they are responsible for iteration goals and delivering value to the customer.

Q20. Who sets the sprint goal?

Product owner. Defining the sprint goal or sprint objective is one of the most important goal of the product owner.

Q21. What are the techniques used for backlog prioritization?

Listed below are some popular techniques used to prioritize the product backlog:

  • MaSCoW Method
  • Kano Model
  • 100 Dollar Test
  • Stack Ranking
  • Cost of Delay

If backlog items are turning into a large and unwieldy lengthy queue, it’s time to prioritize. As pointed out, there are numerous ways to do so.

Q22. What is the Release Burndown Chart?

BurnDownChart -Product Owner Interview Questions - EdurekaBurndown charts are used to track sprint status, they illustrate the amount of work remained to complete a project”. Also, they will highlight the area where they see redundancy. So, burn -down charts include:

  • X-axis that displays working days
  • Y-axis that displays remaining effort
  • Ideal effort as a guideline
  • Real progress of the effort

Q23. What are the most important components of Agile?

The most important components of the agile model are:

  • Stand-Up meetings which are done on a daily basis
  • Class Responsibilities and Collaborator cards
  • Timeboxed Task Boards
  • Iteration planning meetings that carry out the iterative development
  • TDD (Test Driven Development), Continuous Integration, regular code reviews, pair programming, automated builds, etc.

Q24. List some popular agile frameworks. Do you know any other agile methodology apart from scrum?

When you are posed with this sort of question, and if you haven’t used any other frameworks, you can just name few that you might have heard of. Other frameworks that are based on agile are:

  • Kanban
  • Test-Driven Development
  • Feature Driven Development
  • Extreme programming
  • Crystal
  • Lean Software Development

Now that we have finished the basic questions, let’s move on to the next set of questions in this product owner interview questions article.

Advanced Level Product Owner Interview Questions

Q25. As a product owner what will be your responsibilities?

The job description of a product owner is fairly straightforward. A Product Owner’s typical responsibilities include:

  • Creating and managing the product backlog & making sure that it is visible, transparent, and clear
  • Guiding the team to achieve the best goals and missions in a desirable time
  • Processing the value of the work done and making rational decisions
  • Collaborating with the development team and communicating the status to stakeholders
  • Managing team economics and actively participate in daily stand-up Scrums, Sprint Planning Meetings, Sprint Reviews, and Retrospectives
  • Ensure transparency into the upcoming work of the product development team
  • Represents customer and stakeholder interests and needs. Engages their feedback to validate priorities and compromises.

To fulfill all these responsibilities, the product owner needs skills such as facilitation, conflict management, creative thinking, and the ability to influence the team and other stakeholders

Q26. Do you think Agile Model is applicable for every project? 

A flexible model like agile can be used in cases like, when:

  • New changes need to be implemented in between development cycle
  • Working on complex and bigger projects
  • There are long term goals and no bound on requirements
  • Have to quickly launch the product to market
  • There are frequent changes throughout the development cycle
  • There is no limit on time and budget

    Q27. What are the skills we need in a Product Owner?

    It’s quite natural that every role demands certain skills to meet the expectations of the position. Few of the essential skills to be competent product owners are:

    • Knowledgeable: Product Owner should be immensely knowledgeable about the product. Additionally, he/she should not only think about the product but also what is the scope of the same in the market.
    • Communication Skills- It is important for the Product Owner to have excellent communication skills that can adapt to different teams and behavior types. He/she needs to work with the business to understand their vision and the development team to bring it to reality.
    • Commitment – The PO should be committed to the project, vision, team and the business. Product Owner should clearly communicate the vision between the small backlog items and the larger business goal.
    • Available – A Product Owner should be available for the stakeholders, the customers, the development team and the Scrum Master to discuss their issues.
    • Decision Making: A Product Owner should have the ability to judge the scenarios and make the decisions that affect the team and its progress.

    Q28. How does the PO filter the user stories before putting an idea in a backlog as a Product Backlog item?

    A Product Owner should not outrightly reject any of ideas, nor can he/she accept all of them. Every idea that comes to the product owner needs to be analyzed. The analysis can be done in several ways like analyzing through creating a prototype, working on pilot customers, based on experience, etc. Based on the result of analysis, the PO should decide if the idea should be added to the product backlog or not.

    Q29. Mention some scenarios where using scrum is not suggested?

    Not every story about Scrum is a success story. Scrum can fail too. It’s not suggested to use scrum when:

    • The requirements do not evolve much
    • You are working with huge groups or have more responsibilities
    • The organization is not willing to adapt to the scrum framework
    • Frequently needing to respond, quicker than a sprint allows

    Q30. What are the properties of a sprint?

    Like any other entity scrum sprint also has certain properties that you should be aware of, like:

    • Timeboxed – Literally almost anything in a sprint is time-boxed, whether it is a scrum event or the sprint itself
      • Timeboxing helps the team to focus and allows the space for discipline and closed boundaries for any planned activity
      • It creates a cadence and also helps in gathering metrics on steady intervals
    • Protected from any changes – According to Scrum Guide “Once the team has made a commitment in the Sprint Planning, the scope of the sprint will be locked. Any changes in the commitment in terms of scope change is not encouraged. But if the change is small enough to be incorporated in a sprint, the team should follow the suggestions listed in Agile Manifesto.
    • The maximum duration of a sprint should be 2-3 weeks long.

    Q31. Explain the MoSCow technique used for backlog prioritization?

    Prioritizing the requirements in the product backlog is one of the most important responsibilities of the product owner. There are several ways to do it, one of the most popular technique is MoSCoW. It is a Product backlog refinement technique, where:

    • Mo stands for Must be
    • S stands for Should be
    • Co stand for Could be 
    • W stands for Won’t be

    Each requirement will have the priority which would be tagged to MoSCoW, with “M” being the highest and “W” being the lowest priority.

    Q32. Is it ever suggested to use waterfall over Scrum? If yes, explain when.

    When your requirements are simple, well-defined, fully understood, predictable, and are not subjected to change until the completion of the project you could probably go for the waterfall model.

    Q33. How non-functional requirements can be dealt with within the product backlog?

    Non-functional requirements play an important role in the overall product development and delivery. They are the requirements without which the functional part cannot be termed as complete. There are different ways of handlings such requirements, like:

    • Create user stories in the backlog
    • Inclusion in DoD
    • Acceptance Criteria

    Q34. What services that product owner receives from scrum master?

    Scrum Master serves Product Owner in the following ways:

    • Makes sure that the goals and scope of the project are understood by everyone involved
    • Facilitates Scrum events as and when requested by the product owner
    • Helps product owner find techniques for effective product backlog management
    • Ensure the product owner knows how to arrange the product backlog to maximize value
    • Helps product owner understand and practice agile practices

    Q35. What are a few challenges of with the product owner role?

    Some of the challenges that Product Owners face are:

    • Prioritizing features is not always easy and might involve trade-off decision making.
    • Product Owners often find it difficult to transforming customer’s ideas into tangible product deliverables.
    • Aligning the entire scrum team with customer’s requirements and articulating the customer’s requirements and project goal to the team is a challenging task
    • At times, the product owners fail to understand the fundamental of the role which in turn reflected in the performance of the team
    • PO might find it challenging to plan releases and sprints to deliver maximum value at the earliest
    • Dealing with customers who do not understand the process of Scrum is another difficulty
    • Providing timely and constructive feedback to the team to improve the quality of deliverables is not always a straightforward process

    With this, we have finished the theory-based questions. Let’s move on to the next set of questions in this product owner interview questions article.

    Real-World Scenario Based Product Owner Interview Questions 

    Q36. Is it a product owner’s responsibility to track or measure the performance of the project?

    Yes, it is. Generally, while the development team is one who measures sprint performance, it’s the product owner, who measures project performance.

    Q37. How does Product Owner maximize the value of the Development Team’s work?

    A large part of the Product Owner role is to establish the mission and vision for their teams work efforts. The Product owner can increase the value the team delivers through different strategies, which are:

    • Continuous interaction contributes to maximum value being delivered
    • Domain Training, investing time in teaching the development team about the domain, helping them understand the business and how it works
    • Vision, taking out time explain the vision for the product and the organization
    • Value Delivery, making the team understand the value being delivered at the story level.

    Doing all the above-listed things not only encourages the team and helps them own the product but it also helps the overall business.

    Q38. Have you heard of Product Backlog Refinement meeting? In that meeting do we focus on items of upcoming sprints or the current sprints?

    During a Product backlog refinement meeting, the team and the product owner discuss the questions that would normally arise during sprint planning. Therefore, that meeting is for the upcoming sprint. The items in the current sprint are no longer on the Product Backlog. They are in the artifact called Sprint Backlog.

    Q39. If you were a product owner how would you deal with uncooperative stakeholders?

    The best way is to find a way to convince them that their presence and contribution is really important. Also, win their confidence by engaging them through regular meeting and discussions and demonstrating the value of agile product development. If it still fails, the product owner should seek help from a sponsor. Also, facilitate workshops, training events etc to get participation from uncooperative stakeholders.

    Q40. Are you a certified scrum product owner (CSPO)?

    This is one of the most commonly asked questions. Don’t panic if you don’t have a certification and they ask you this question! Be confident and answer if you have a product owner certification or not. If you are a certified scrum product owner just share the details of your certification like certification type, score obtained, and the year of passing. In case you are not certified to highlight your experience in the particular field and let the interviewer know if you are planning to take one in the future.

    Q41. As a product owner who should you report to?

    Every organization has its own reporting hierarchy. Scrum does not provide any mandatory ground rule on the reporting structure for the product owner. In a large organization where the product is fairly big and they use agile frameworks like SAFe, they have product managers at the highest level, who are the main owners of the product. At the team level, they have product owners who constantly stay in touch with the product managers and report to them. But again, there is no set criteria or hierarchy being followed at the organizations.

    Q42. As a Product Owner, how would you communicate your marketplace knowledge to the Scrum Team?

    As a part of the scrum team, it is very much required that the development team and the scrum master is aware of the changes happening in the market place. And making sure that the scrum team is up to date on marketplace knowledge is one of the responsibilities of the product owner. The Product Owner does it continuously as a part of his informal interactions with the development team and scrum meetings. He also does that through formal discussions and meetings that are part of the scrum framework.

    Q43. How do you align the product roadmap with the product backlog and user stories?

    You don’t align the product roadmap with the product backlog and user stories. The Product Roadmap describes what products and features will be built to realize the vision, who is responsible for building those product features, and, sometimes, an estimate of when those products and features will be released. It should generate User Stories for the team’s Product Backlog. There should be a parent-child relationship between the two.

    Q44. The development team is repeatedly failing to fulfill the sprint commitment. As a product owner, what would you do?

    It is very important for the Product Owner to understand the reason for the development team failing the sprint commitment. PO should continuously progress the work status of the Dev team. It could be due to multiple reasons:

    • It might be because of incorrect estimation or over-commitment.
    • Or, it might be because of a lack of trust and collaboration in the team.
    • Might be because of the team not understanding the user story and not slicing it correctly.

    A product owner needs to identify which amongst these reasons are responsible for the failure of the team. Based on the reason, the PO needs to work with the development team and Scrum master to find the solution.

    Q45. Can a person be PO for multiple teams?

    The Product Owner is the owner of a single product. He/she focuses on the given product by constantly being in touch with the customers and stakeholders. Aligning a PO for multiple projects will impact the quality of deliverable and it will also affect the duties of individual playing the role of a PO.

    The main objective of the PO is to maximize the value of the product. So, if a PO is in charge of multiple products, the focus gets divided, the time also gets broken down between different parties which in turn creates a mess for the product owner. It is not advisable to align one product owner with multiple projects as it also affects the strategy and timeline for the project.

    Q46. How will you know if you are successful as a product owner or not?

    Generally, the success of the product owner depends on how much invested the person in this role and understands the true meaning of being a product owner. Certain parameters that would help you evaluate yourself are:

    • Strength of Product Backlog
    • Constant delivery of Value
    • Attaining of Release Goals
    • Understanding of Product Vision by team members
    • Defining a successful Product Roadmap
    • When the customer is satisfied and pleased

    But, in no way, these are the only parameters. There can be many parameters to access the success of this role.

    Q47. Do you hold any agile certification? Why did you choose this certification?

    This sort of question might seem awkward if you don’t have any certification. In such cases, stay calm and just let the interviewer know if are planning to take any in the future. If yes, then mention why you have that particular certification. Some popular certifications are:

    Q48. Should the team accept changes in the sprint as requested by the Product Owner?

    The agile model has helped the teams to manage changes within the development process model. According to agile principles, if the change is being requested by the Product Owner, the team has to decide if they should accept it or not. There will be a negotiation between the product owner and the development, the team gets to take the final call on the acceptance of the change.

    Q49. Your team is constantly failing to meet commitments, and its performance velocity is volatile. What might the possible reasons be?

    This question basically addresses various issues. There are many possible factors that might combine to make a team’s velocity volatile, like:

    • Hiring new people
    • Team members are leaving
    • Levels of seniority in the team is causing issues
    • Working in uncharted territory
    • Working with legacy code, probably undocumented
    • Unexpected technical debt
    • Wy to many holidays and sick leave

    Q50. List some of the popular project management tools that you have heard of.

    Some popular tools used in the project management are Rally Software, Version One, XPlanner, EasyBacklog Agilefant, and many others.

    Well, that’s it! We have reached the end of the Product Owner Interview Questions Article.

    I hope the questions listed in this “Product Owner Interview Questions” help you crack your interview. Also, to gain confidence in this area, you can opt for a certification program for product owner. Happy learning!

    Got a question for us? Please mention it in the comments section of this “Product Owner Interview Questions” article and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

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