Q. Can we ask female applicants about lengthy gaps in their employment histories? I’m afraid that doing so might make it look as though we are digging into personal or family issues that could lead to a claim of gender bias.
A. Information regarding past employment, including gaps in employment, generally is regarded as an acceptable area about which to inquire during an interview.
Courts generally believe that a company is entitled to know what experience, and how much experience, an applicant has when making a hiring decision.
As always, however, the threshold question that the company needs to answer is whether the position itself is one for which work history is important. There are some positions where prior experience (or even a gap in experience) has no real bearing on the type of work to be performed. In those situations, it may not be necessary to look too closely at employment history gaps.
The rule of thumb to follow in the hiring process (both in applications and during interviews) is to never ask a question when the answer will have no bearing on whether the applicant gets the job.
And don’t restrict the question to female employees. If you ask about gaps, you must ask male applicants, too.