The job candidate with the most experience might also be the oldest applicant. But that doesn’t mean you always have to pick that person.
You can use other factors as long as none of them hints at age discrimination.
The key is to maintain impeccable records showing how and why you chose the candidate you did. Among the qualifications you might deem more important than experience: education or an interview performance indicating better or more current knowledge.
Recent case: Lloyd Norman, a 58-year-old teacher, sued his school district for alleged age discrimination when he was passed over for a series of openings. All the promoted candidates were younger than Norman.
Norman claimed he had many more years of experience in the classroom than the other candidates. However, when asked specific questions during the job interviews, Norman couldn’t demonstrate the same level of knowledge as the others.
That was enough for the court to toss out his claim. While Norman might have had the most experience, those factors alone didn’t mean he was being discriminated against based on his age.
The court said Norman needed something else—ageist comments, slights, etc.—to win a lawsuit. (Norman v. Reading School District, No. 10-2147, 3rd Cir.)
Final note: Make sure all candidates have to answer the same interview questions. Justify each question as job-related and have everyone at the interview take notes. Then save them.