Tips for Genetic Counseling Job Interviews
For decades the field of genetic counseling has been growing exponentially, with the number of Certified Genetic Counselors increasing by 88% since 2006 (NSGC). The projected job market over the next decade is projected to increase by ~29%, in comparison with only 10% for “other healthcare practitioners and technical occupations” (BLS). The CT Department of Labor ranks genetic counseling as the third fastest growing job in Connecticut, with a 42.9% growth rate between 2012-2022 (CT DOL).
So how can you obtain one of these many jobs? The first step is to graduate from an accredited graduate level genetic counseling program (here’s advice on how to get into those universities). With a genetic counseling degree, you are eligible to apply to many genetic counseling jobs.
In order to land one of these many genetic counseling positions, first you have to apply. Don’t be intimidated – now is the time to go for it! Be sure that your application is complete, without spelling and grammatical errors, and that you stress what you could bring to THAT position — using a boilerplate cover letter and resume for every job is an error that many applicants make. Tailor yours to fit THAT job description. This will hopefully lead to an interview.
Your next step is a big one, rocking your interview. But don’t forget, you also want to make sure that the position is the right one for you – so pay attention to the people, the environment, and the way they treat their employees.
To help you prepare for your next interview we asked genetic counselors to pass on their insider advice. Check out their words of wisdom below to help you land the genetic counseling job of your dreams!
We also suggest that you read our Trailblazing Genetic Counselors blog series to learn about various career opportunities in our field. Check out the LinkedIn profiles of the genetic counselors below to read their backgrounds and follow them on Twitter (click their name after their quote). Here’s our Genetic Counseling Twitter list of over 360 professionals in the field who are also active on Twitter.
“Know the difference between negotiables and non-negotiables. Do not settle!!! I almost settled for my first job. I’m glad I didn’t” ~Matt Tschirgi, Medical Science Liaison at Progenity, Inc. and Founder and Managing Director at Genetix Consulting, LLC
“Be precise about what segment you deal with, i.e doctors, other medical professionals, patients or researchers, because the same genetic intervention has to be presented in a different manner to all the above people. Genetic counselling is very vast then it actually defines. Be confident and accurate about your knowledge about genetics, questions can come up from anywhere.” ~Ruchi Galati, Genetic Counselor at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital for Positive Bioscience Ltd.
“You can use your genetic counselling skills for a number of different types of work–it’s all in how you market yourself. Confidence counts and if you’re applying outside the field, never apologize for being a genetic counselor. Don’t forget to check Glassdoor too–sometimes people post interview experiences.” ~Leslie Ordal, Clinical Research Manager, Medical Writer, and Genetic Counselor
“What stood out when I applied for my job is that the other counselors had been there for 10+ years! Talk aloud to yourself at home: about yourself, interesting topics in genetics, your accomplishments. It’ll warm you up! If a job’s not the right fit for you, you don’t want it! Interviews are like dates: not proving you’re the best, but seeing if you and the job are the right fit for each other.” ~Brittany Gancarz, Prenatal Genetic Counselor at UCONN Health
“Many genetic counseling positions have no growth track (i.e., Jr/Sr GC). Another critical issue for job satisfaction and professional/financial growth. Ask! Once you get the job, do not accept it without ensuring the position will pay for >1 conference/year (all expenses). This is a must for professional development.” ~Scott Weissman, Founder of Chicago Genetic Consultants, LLC.
“Focus on why you would be a good fit for THAT job, not just A job. Shows you’ve done your homework.” ~Andria Besser, Genetic Counselor at NYU Langone Medical Center, Counsyl, and the Center for Rare Jewish Genetic Disorders.
“Be clear on why you want that particular job since they will likely ask, but TELL them why THEY WANT YOU…what do you bring?” ~Carrie Haverty, Genetic Counselor and Clinical Product Director at Counsyl
“REALLY hard to stand out as a new graduate. Research your new role and tell them how you can build on their accomplishments. At the same time, new graduates don’t know everything and hirers know that. Don’t get too cocky! Confidence is a fine line. ” ~Andrea Forman, Senior Genetic Counselor at Fox Chase Cancer Center
“Observe and ask about the culture of the work environment…if burn-out and dissatisfaction are rampant, take note. With so much job transition, retention speaks volumes, especially in the past 5-or-so years.” ~Erica Bednar, Genetic Counselor at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
“Mentally review key cases you’ve seen (even as student) and what they show about you as a genetic counselor/colleague. Fodder for behavioral questions. Always have ‘go to’ stories: The time I…’disagreed with my supervisor’, ‘made a mistake’, ‘had a difficult patient’ etc.” ~Alexis Carere, Genetic Counselor & Post-doctoral Fellow in Epidemiology at McMaster University
“Be prepared – ask others what are common questions you may be asked. Know your own history well (work, studies, extracurricular activities) so that you can comfortably talk about yourself – your positive attributes and your weaknesses where you want to improve. Don’t be afraid to talk about yourself in a positive way – you have been offered an interview for a reason. And for case questions, it’s okay to not know the answer – demonstrate that you know how to find the answer.” ~Eliza Courtney, Genetic Counselor at the National Cancer Centre Singapore
“Lunch is not a ‘break’ from the interview. Lunch is where the chemistry is tested between you and your potential new team. Don’t be shy and hang back, get in the conversation!” ~Christine Riordan, Genetic Counselor at LabCorp
“Be prepared with a list of questions of your own, this shows that you’re interested in how they do things and that you’ve thought about what it would be like to work there.” ~Kathryn Sargent, Cancer Genetic Counselor at Carle Foundation Hospital
“Learn as much as you can about the people you will meet during the interview process including their professional interests and accomplishments. Even browse a few publications. This will help you engage uniquely with your interviewers. Once you’re prepared, relax and enjoy the experience!” ~Marjan Champine, Clinical Lead Genetic Counselor at Huntsman Cancer Institute
“Research the company or institution ahead of time: read their website, social media sites, and ask for a list of whom you’ll meet on your interview ahead of time. Research each of those people, read their publications, review their social media quotes and have at least 2 specific questions for each based on what you’ve learned. It will let them know that you are serious about them and this job. Discuss, specifically, what skills you bring to THIS position that would make you a value-add. Dress professionally, greet everyone formally (Dr., Mr., Ms.) unless they request otherwise, and arrive 10 minutes early. Send a thank you email within 24 hours, and make it specific to the job. If you really want the job, send a thank you email to each person you met and tell them why you think you’re a great fit for the job, and vice versa.” ~Ellen Matloff, President/CEO of My Gene Counsel
“Before your interview, research the position and the people you will interview with extensively. Consider 3-4 points about yourself, your skillset and how they are applicable to the specific job you are interviewing for. What do you want your potential employer to know about you? Practice taking about these points beforehand so you can work them into conversation. Think of examples that demonstrate your skillset and personality to add to these conversations. Dress professionally, it shows you are invested and taking the interview seriously.” ~Danielle Bonadies, Director of Cancer Genetics at My Gene Counsel