In your opinion, why do you think people visit with genetic counselors?
"Many couples consider visiting with genetic counselors so that they can rule out any abnormal results from prenatal testing. Other individuals see genetic counselors because they want to be proactive in their efforts to stay healthy if they are at risk of common genetic diseases such as diabetes or cancers."
This is a great way to show the interviewer that you have seen something that is different in the genetic field. This will also let the interviewer know that you have the depth of knowledge need to excel.
"The most significant birth defect that I noticed was Marfan's syndrome. While I was interning with a genetic counselor post graduate school, a couple came in who were expecting a baby in five months. They had a family history of Marfan's and were worried that their baby might have it too. This syndrome is a common inherited disorder of the connective tissue and is located in the FBN1 gene. We ran a panel and confirmed the findings that their fetus did indeed have a high percentage of possibility for that symptom. The couple now had a difficult decision to make regarding their pregnancy."
Explain to the interviewer why you chose this career - this is a good way to give them some background on yourself and your motivation.
"Growing up, I was intrigued with puzzles and was inclined to pursue a career in where I can solve problems. In high school, I chose Genetics as an elective and was really inspired by my teacher because he would motivate me to take on science fair projects and keep challenging me. In college, I decided to major in Biology with a minor in Genetics and shadowed a Genetics professor. We had a couple come in who were worried that their child might have Tay Sach's disease due to their background. As I watched my professor talk to them about their test results and ease their minds - I knew that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life."
This question is a great way to show your empathic side and discuss an experience where you had to hand walk a patient who was indecisive.
"Working with a genetic counselor as an intern, we had a patient who had a family history of prostrate cancer, and was contemplating getting tested so that he can be proactive and schedule doctor's appointments more often so that he can detect it in its early stages. Though he knew all of this, he seemed very antsy and scared that the results would come out positive. I let him know that just because the test comes back positive, does not necessarily mean that it can happen. I also talked about many cases, when detected early enough, can be eradicated by chemotherapy."
Explain to the interviewer your communication style. Do you let others know about your goals? Do you have an open door policy?
"I consider myself to be an organized communicator. I always set weekly catch up appointments with my colleagues and supervisors so that any issues that we have are resolved in a timely manner. I also have an open door policy - my doors are open unless I am consulting with patients. Finally, when it comes to patients, I let them know that I am there for them if they have any concerns regarding their test results."
Talk about what excites you about being a GC. Is it helping patients get answers? Is it the fascination of running labs?
"For me, the most exciting part of being a genetic counselor is identifying underlying and recessive medical conditions that my patients present. Running DNA and genetic tests is like solving a mystery and looking beyond what meets the eye - this is what excites me most about being a genetic counselor."
The interviewer wants you to go over your credentials so that they can verify your eligibility for the role. Talk about your highest level of education and plan to mention any volunteering work, awards or scholarships to make yourself stand out from the candidate pool.
"I graduated at the top of my class in high school. From then I attended the University of Miami and earned my Bachelor's Degree. While in school, I shadowed a genetic counselor to gain experience specifically interacting with patients. I also was part of a local Red Cross and volunteered at blood drives. After my Bachelors, I decided to work as an intern filing paperwork and running lab tests with a genetic counselor. The more I learned and studied Genetic principles, the more I wanted to have a career in this field- mainly to help patients by identifying disorders."
This question is asked to see your level of commitment to the field of genetic counseling. If you are certified, show the interviewer how you plan on using this certification. If you are not certified, let the interviewer know your tangible goals to get certified.
"I completed my certification from the American Board of Genetic Counselors in April of this year. In today's world, patients are more likely to trust counselors who are board certified because they know that you are qualified to practice."
The interviewer wants you to go over your credentials so that they can verify your eligibility for the role. Discuss in detail any classes that you enjoyed and how you think that makes you a better GC.
"I decided to pursue my Bachelors in Genetic Counseling at the University of Miami. Part of the curriculum included taking a few elective courses so I decided to take Biochemistry and Spanish. Biochemistry because I was interested to learn about genetic diseases on a molecular level so that when I spoke to patients and physicians I would have a well rounded knowledge base. I took Spanish because I thought having another language in my arsenal would make me a great asset to clinics and patients."
The interviewer wants you to discuss what you learned while shadowing a GC. Did she motivate or challenge you?
"In college, I shadowed a genetic counselor to gain experience specifically interacting with patients. She let me run labs and discuss results with her and even allowed me to participate in patient meetings so that I can have a well-rounded experience. She would always challenge me and would ask me ad hoc questions on recent research articles so that I kept up with my reading. The more I learned and studied Genetic principles, the more I wanted to have a career in this field- mainly to help patients by identifying disorders."
Describe in detail any tools and means that you use to manage time. You want to let the interviewer know that you are tech savvy and well versed in some of the modern calendars and applications that allow for efficiency. This shows them that you are able to keep up with your schedule and organize your time appropriately. Example: "I use Outlook calendar to stay on top of my appointments for that day. I also use desktop post it notes to make reminders of things to do - making appointments, reviewing patient plans or portfolios, speaking to the physician about an urgent case. Additionally, I block times on my calendar to catch up on emails or any to do actions that I might not have time to review. I do realize that not everything can be planned and there will be things that need my attention immediately. In cases like these, I make sure that I respond to urgent matters promptly."
"I use Outlook calendar to stay on top of my appointments for that day. I also use desktop post it notes to make reminders of things to do - making appointments, reviewing patient plans or portfolios, speaking to the physician about an urgent case. Additionally, I block times on my calendar to catch up on emails or any to do actions that I might not have time to review. I do realize that not everything can be planned and there will be things that need my attention immediately. In cases like these, I make sure that I respond to urgent matters promptly."
You want to play hard to get but not like you are interviewing with a lot of other places.
"I am currently researching all the clinics where I feel their newborn screening programs are strong. I have shortlisted a handful and have applied. I had a phone interview yesterday with another clinic and they have invited me for an onsite interview early next week. I do not want to apply to programs just for the sake of applying. I am content where I am but am looking for the opportunity to grow and will only consider places that allow me to reach my highest potential."
List and briefly discuss your familiarity with genetic tests. The interviewer wants to see if you have experience with some of the common tests that are out there.
"I have a lot of hands on experience working with prenatal tests, newborn screening tests and diagnostic tests. I have shadowed diagnostic and forensic testing. Newborn screening tests are most interesting to me because it tests newborns on most common genetical disorders so that the parents can start treatments as soon as possible."
The interviewer wants to understand your perspective of yourself. Are you good at assessing your weaknesses? This is a great way for you to demonstrate to the interviewer your reflection of yourself. This is also another way to make yourself stand apart from the other candidates. Example: "My weakness is that I have a Type A personality which stresses me out. I like for things to be a certain way and if a co-worker that I am working with is a bit too laid back, then I get annoyed. I am actively working on being patient with others as not everyone is going to be like me."
"My weakness is that I have a Type A personality which stresses me out. I like for things to be a certain way and if a co-worker that I am working with is a bit too laid back, then I get annoyed. I am actively working on being patient with others as not everyone is going to be like me."
Great way to show the interviewer what else it is that you are passionate about and show that you contribute to the society.
"For the past three years I volunteer my time with the local no-kill pet shelter because I have always been passionate about animals. My shift is every Saturday from 10 am - 2 pm and work with animals who are mistreated by their owners and try to re-engage them into society. I bathe them, walk them, play with them and give them their medications. I also help with administrative duties when they have a large influx of animals. It is very important to give back to the community. Working with animals for a while now has taught me the importance of loyalty and resilience."
For this question, you can talk about a specific example and then follow it up with how you handled the situation.
"I had a patient come in to see me who was distraught that she tested positive for the Alzheimer's gene. While she did not present any symptoms, she was worried that she would turn out like her grandfather who was helpless and delusional as he aged. She started crying and panicking. I told her that just because she tests positive does not mean that she will have the disease but yes it does increase her chances. I also set up an appointment with a neurologist so that he could refer her to support groups and talk to her about potential clinical trials. More importantly, I let her know that it is difficult to predict the future and we could potentially have a cure by the time she expresses the disease. This did seem to calm her down and make her realize that she should enjoy today and worry about tomorrow when it gets here."
This question will give the interviewer an idea of how you will fit in their current work culture. Some things to consider when answering this question are: are you a team player or prefer to work alone? How is your communication style? Be honest and descriptive.
"I am a team player and really believe in working together to resolve any issues and solve problems. I always make myself available to help anyone who needs me while making sure that I reach my professional goals. I also believe in open and honest communication because this is the best way to avoid tensions in the workplace."
The interviewer is interested in your ability to successfully resolve a conflict with a coworker or supervisor. You can answer this based on your personal experience but make sure that it has a positive end result. Examples: "Physicians tend to get busy and get overwhelmed with patient consults. As a result, it is sometimes difficult to schedule some quality time to discuss patient files and they go ahead and do the consult without talking to genetic counselors. This can, of course, lead to miscommunication or confusion for the patients. When I come across situations like these, I always reach out to the physician or the physician assistant and make sure that we are on the same page about patient treatment timelines so that we do not overwhelm or confuse the patient"
"Physicians tend to get busy and get overwhelmed with patient consults. As a result, it is sometimes difficult to schedule some quality time to discuss patient files and they go ahead and do the consult without talking to genetic counselors. This can, of course, lead to miscommunication or confusion for the patients. When I come across situations like these, I always reach out to the physician or the physician assistant and make sure that we are on the same page about patient treatment timelines so that we do not overwhelm or confuse the patient"
The interviewer wants you to highlight your best attribute. They are asking you what you think you are great at. You should highlight that one attribute but also give a specific example of why you think so.
"I am a calm and communicative person. The ability to stay calm when things get tough is my best asset. I can listen to patients and create follow up plans accordingly. I can also listen to distressed patients and answer their questions and concerns in a calm manner. For instance, I had an older woman come in really worried about her grandson who she thought has some kind of a heart disease since he was adopted and was always running out of breath and tired. The cardiologist had referred her to us to run a genetic panel because she did not have any medical history on him. I stayed calm and told her that we would do everything in our power to find the defect and hopefully get her an answer."
This is a great way to show the interviewer your critical thinking skills.
"Having genotype for a condition does not necessarily mean that you may have it. Furthermore, the patient would have to consider that this is a major surgery and can completely change the way their body looks and feels. With such great advancements in the field of medicine, there are multiple ways to detect cancer - they can increase the frequency of their mammograms and ob-gyn appointments"
Explain the interviewer in a step by step process of how you would handle an uneasy customer.
"First and foremost I would make sure that the patient understands that just because they have the gene they might not necessarily pass it on or have the phenotype for it. I would first offer them a glass of water and assure them that whatever happens I am here for them. I would then read the results slowly so that I give them time to process what I am saying. Then, I would offer to answer any questions or clarify anything they want. If the customer was especially antsy I would stay with him or her and tell them that everything will be okay. I would also schedule follow up appointments."
This question is meant to show the interviewer if you are involved in any extracurriculars which go to show that you are well rounded and not a stressed workaholic. Feel free to come up with any hobbies that will provide the interviewer a different perspective.
"On weekends, I like to play tennis with my college buddies. This releases stress and also allows me to learn teamwork. I also enjoy playing the piano. I took piano lessons from when I was five years old until I started college. The piano is a great way to relieve stress and focus on me. The music enables me to lose my self, so-to-speak, and focus on something positive. It also refreshes me for the upcoming week."
Genetic counselors specialize in determining risk factors for hereditary diseases in patients. These highly trained medical experts work in hospitals, private clinics, research laboratories, and universities. Their tasks include analyzing genetic data and patient histories, performing genetic risk calculations, educating patients and their families about potential risk factors and advising patients as to how to cope with the diagnosis.
A master's degree in genetic counseling is essential for anyone wishing to practice in this field. In addition, many states have made licensure mandatory, for which certification as a genetic counselor is usually required. The graduate program is rigorous and includes coursework in genetic screening, molecular genetics, birth defects, prenatal diagnosis, population studies, counseling ethics and research methods. A keen eye for detail and strong analytical, problem-solving, research, communication, and interpersonal skills are essential attributes in this role.
Expect to undergo an exhaustive interview. Prospective employers will go to great lengths to make 100% that you are the right fit for the job, both in terms of job knowledge as well as the manner in which you communicate with patients. They will ask you why you chose to become a genetic counselor and what do you think are your strengths as they relate to this job. They will also ask you about your perceived weaknesses and if you are doing anything to overcome those weaknesses. You can prepare compelling answers to any question the interviewer asks you by taking a look at commonly asked interview question listed at Mock Questions.