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Supo: Employers request 62k background checks annually on potential hires

Bad credit or a criminal history could disqualify job applicants seeking work in certain positions.

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Apart from financial and drug crimes, drunk driving is one of the red flags that Supo reports to potential employers. Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle
Yle News

Finland’s security and intelligence police, Supo, says it performs up to 62,000 security checks annually for employers. The audits form part of the recruitment process if the job in question involves national security, national defence or data security, Supo told Yle.

As a result, applicants interested in installing windows at a police station under construction or cleaning an army garrison or working in the foreign service are all subject to the procedure. Jobseekers with a poor credit history or a criminal background will soon find their applications are overlooked.

Supo said however that during the security screening process, it treats each case on its own merits.

"If the cabinet requests a background check for a minister’s chauffeur, we would flag a drunk driving citation. But if a ministry is looking for someone to set up scaffolding for a renovation job, the drunk driving citation would be meaningless,”"explained Supo senior inspector Pekka Aho, adding that the employer makes the final hiring decision, not the intelligence agency.

Leniency for offences over 10 years old

In general however, Supo said that it does not consider offences that date back longer than 10 years. The rule of thumb is that one youthful indiscretion should not be allowed to ruin an individual’s entire professional career. Aho noted that in some cases the intel organisation could decide not to inform an employer about a single offence committed many years in the past or as a juvenile.

Primarily, security screenings flag criminal offences committed within a 10-year window or distraint proceedings committed in a four-year time span. However the more sensitive the information an employee will handle, the tighter the screening.

Supo outlined the main reasons employers decide not to offer a position to an aspiring candidate.

1. Poor credit history, distraint or fraud

Payment defaults, distraint proceedings or financial crimes matter if the job applicant will have access to a firm’s or a public authority’s financial transactions or can get their hands on highly sensitive information. Credit default and distraint notifications are flagged in standard and comprehensive security screenings, but not in summary checks. The rule of thumb is that distraint filings that are older than four years are not reported.

2. Drunk driving

If the fundamental position involves driving a vehicle, investigators will report drunk driving citations to the employer. For example in cases where driving is not a core requirement of the job, investigators will not necessarily inform the employer of a drunk driving charge.

3. Drug offences

Supo has zero-tolerance policy when it comes to narcotics offences and may notify employers of even minor offences. Exceptions may include cases where the offence was a one-off and occurred when the offender was a minor. In the case of drug crimes, Supo abides by the recommendations of the Justice Ministry’s evaluation criterion advisory board.

4. Assault

If a job vacancy is with the protective services, Supo will very likely inform an employer of an assault conviction. This is also the case with educational or training institutions, for example if someone is applying for a study place at the Police University College. If the applicant has been found guilty of several violent crimes, that information will definitely be forwarded to recruiters.

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