The job I was interviewing for was with a major company in its industry. The industry is small, but this company has several branches, one of which is where I live. I have known the manager here for a long time. Another employee there encouraged me to contact him about a possible job as they were looking to hire a couple of additional people. I have only had a little experience in the field and was looking to make a switch from the finance world where I have had some pretty good success but was burnt out from. The manager told me that should not be a problem since they had a good training program for new hires and suggested that I do some studying before initial contact with the main office.
Hiring got put on hold for a while, but I would make periodic visits to the branch here and go on field assignments in order to get a true understanding for the job. When the opportunity came up the branch manager called me and made sure I got my name on the list of candidates. He let me know what the initial line of questioning would be during the phone screening and made sure I was up to speed on the information.
After the phone screening, I was invited to go out to a week of intensive training and evaluation. The evaluation consisted of 6 senior level people, one of which was the manager here, critiquing a person's knowledge of the business, formulation of planning strategies for clients, and presentation skills. This was done on our own dime. At no point did the CEO/owner visit the class. By the end of the week I was pulled aside and told that I was "in" provided that the conversation with the CEO went fine.
Up until this point everything is fine. I had a conversation with the CEO and the first questions he asked were, How old are you? and What is your family situation? My wife is an HR director, so I know that these questions were completely out of line and illegal to ask. I did not feel however, that telling him this would help my situation so I answered them. There was a follow up question regarding the fact that this was "young" company and did I think that I would have an issue taking direction from someone 10 years my junior? Of course I answered no, as I see age as no more than a number and if someone is 25 or 65 if they have knowledge I can learn from I'm all ears.
A bit more background, when I was visiting the office here my friend joked that this office was considered the "old" office in the company as everyone there is over the age of 35. And that the CEO likes to hire young people so that he can make sure that his systems are imprinted on them without bias towards other systems.
The director here was still giving me positive feedback until I received the rejection notice. I talked to him and asked for feedback. He said all 6 people evaluating me recommended me for the job. He said it was not an experience issue and that others had really no more experience than I did. He said it was the fact that I was coming from a different industry and the CEO had been burned by people leaving after experiencing the job. Despite their recommendations the "buck stops there".
This does not sit particularly well with me as I made it clear to everyone involved that was my situation. I was invited out to the evaluation with that knowledge. And according to the manager here was recommended for the job. The only explanation I have is that at age 39 I was too old for the job.
As a 39 year old white male, I know that I am not in a protected class. Do I have any kind of case here? I don't know if I have the time or resources to pursue it, but I'm looking for advice and suggestions.