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A Guide to Employee Background Checks in Sweden

Learn the steps of running employee background checks in Sweden, and enhance your candidate's hiring and screening process.

Michał Kowalewski
Written by Michał Kowalewski
February 15, 2024

Key takeaways

  1. Well-executed employment background checks ensure a detailed verification of employment history, education, criminal records, and other relevant checks for informed hiring
  2. Background checks in Sweden must comply with GDPR and the Swedish Personal Data Act, requiring explicit candidate consent and relevance to the job role​
  3. Employers should be cautious of data retention, discrimination, and relying on inaccurate information during the background check process to avoid legal issues​

Employee background checks should be an integral part of your recruitment process when looking to hire in Sweden. Although not mandatory, they are a common practice, especially in finance, healthcare, transportation, government and tech.

Pre-employment background check of your job applicants not only helps confirm the competencies of your new hire but also ensures a safe and reliable working environment. 

Additionally, given Sweden's ongoing skill gap shortage, employers should prioritize comprehensive background checks and vetting to secure the best talent out there.

In this article, you will discover:

  • How to run an effective and legal employment screening in Sweden 
  • What types of checks are the most common
  • What mistakes to avoid when performing a background check in Sweden

Essential information for a background check in Sweden

An employee background check is the process of verifying a potential hire’s work history, education, professional qualifications, and any criminal records they might have. It’s particularly beneficial to run before finalizing an employment offer or signing a contract, as it ensures the candidate meets the company's standards and requirements. 

Employee background checks in Sweden are governed by the Personal Data Act (PDA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The latter regulates data protection law across the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA). 

The Swedish Data Protection Authority (IMY) is the central authority responsible for overseeing and enforcing data protection regulations in Sweden. Employers can refer to the DPA for guidance on conducting lawful background checks and handling personal data in compliance with the PDA and GDPR.

Are background checks legal in Sweden?

Yes, employment background checks are legal in Sweden. However, they need to comply with the GDPR, which puts certain limitations on what employers can do as far as processing, holding, and analyzing the employee's data is concerned. 

  • Under the PDA and GDPR, employers must have a legitimate reason for conducting background checks and ensure  the information gathered is relevant to the candidate's suitability for the position. 
  • Processing of special categories of personal data, such as religious beliefs or health information, can only happen under specific circumstances, which include explicit consent, for employment, legal, health, public interest reasons, or for research, provided strict protections are in place.
  • Additionally, GDPR specifies that personal data should not be kept for longer than necessary for the purpose for which it was collected. 

What types of background checks are illegal in Sweden?

In Sweden, certain background checks infringing upon individuals' privacy rights are considered illegal. 

  • Conducting credit checks without a valid reason related to the job position is prohibited 
  • Obtaining information about a candidate's political opinions or union membership is not permissible, as it infringes upon the protection of freedom of association and expression
  • Checking criminal records when it's not directly relevant to the job's responsibilities or where no legal provision requires such a check

Employers who engage in unlawful background checks may face penalties, potentially up to 4% of their annual global turnover or €20 million (whichever is greater), especially if the infringement involves GDPR violations.

Common background check industries

In Sweden, there are certain sectors that prioritize pre-employment background checks to safeguard integrity and ensure role suitability. 

  • Financial institutions perform detailed screenings, adhering to strict regulatory standards due to the sensitive nature of their operations 
  • Healthcare sector, focusing on patient safety, assesses the credentials and reliability of medical personnel
  • Government roles, particularly those involving sensitive data or significant decision-making, require comprehensive checks to maintain security and public trust
  • Transportation sector, including public transit and freight services, often requires background checks to ensure safety and reliability in operations.
  • IT industry conducts checks to protect data integrity and maintain cybersecurity, given the sector's vulnerability to security breaches and the need for safeguarding sensitive information

Types of background checks in Sweden

In Sweden, effective employment screening covers essential aspects to evaluate a candidate's abilities. Knowing these areas helps employers tailor screening processes to meet job requirements and legal standards.

Type of Check Common in Sweden? Reason
Criminal Record Check Common Essential for assessing the candidate's suitability and safety in the workplace.    
Employment Verification Common Standard practice to verify the accuracy of the candidate's employment history and experience.  
Credit History Check Less common Less common due to the need for a valid reason related to the job position as per the PDA. 
Academic Qualifications Common  Ensures the legitimacy of the candidate's educational background and qualifications.
Social Media Screening Less common Less common due to privacy considerations and the need to ensure lawful processing of personal data.        

Background check mistakes to avoid in Sweden

No matter if you’re hiring employees or contractors in Sweden, there are a few things that you shouldn’t do as an employer when it comes to background checks:

  • Conducting unauthorized checks: Avoid conducting background checks without explicit consent from the candidate, as it infringes upon the individual's privacy rights and may lead to legal consequences.
  • Failing to define the scope: Ensure that the background checks are relevant to the job position and avoid gathering excessive or irrelevant personal information beyond what is necessary for the hiring decision.
  • Disregarding data protection regulations: It is crucial to adhere to the IMY and GDPR, ensuring the lawful processing of personal data and safeguarding the candidate's privacy rights throughout the background check process.
  • Neglecting transparency: Communicate openly with candidates about the purpose and scope of background checks, fostering transparency and trust in the hiring process.
  • Overlooking record-keeping: Maintain accurate and thorough records of the background check process in compliance with data protection regulations, ensuring accountability and compliance.

Step-by-step guide of employee background checks in Sweden

Below is a list of steps that employers in Sweden should follow to ensure legal and effective background checks:

  • Obtain candidate consent: Before initiating any background checks, obtain explicit consent from the candidate clearly outlining the purpose and scope of the checks in compliance with the PDA and GDPR. Although it’s not specified in the law, written consent is recommended for documentation and compliance purposes.
  • Define the scope: Identify the specific information relevant to the job position, such as educational qualifications, previous employment, and criminal records, ensuring that the checks comply with the lawful processing of personal data.
  • Engage data processors: If utilizing third-party providers for background checks, ensure that they adhere to the data protection regulations and have appropriate data processing agreements in place.
  • Conduct document verification: Verify the authenticity of educational certificates, professional qualifications, and any other relevant documents provided by the candidate.
  • Check employment history: Verify the candidate's employment history, including job responsibilities and performance, to assess their suitability for the position.
  • Check criminal record: With the candidate's consent, conduct a criminal record check through the Swedish Police Authority to ascertain any relevant criminal history.
  • Reference Checks: Contact the candidate's previous employers or professional references to gain insights into their work ethic, skills, and overall performance.
  • Document the process: Maintain thorough records of the background check process, including consent forms, communication with data processors, and verification results, in compliance with data protection regulations.
  • Evaluate results: Evaluate the gathered information in the context of the job requirements, ensuring that the background checks contribute to making informed hiring decisions.
  • Inform the candidate: Provide the candidate with a summary of the background check results and allow them the opportunity to address any discrepancies or provide additional context.
You can also automate this process using Deel, and get a fast employee background check, with results coming in a matter of minutes.


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Mindy Thompson, Senior Vice President of HR, What If Media Group

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