Professional conduct is essential for building your reputation as a Notary signing agent. So if you want to keep your prime spot on signing service and title company Notary lists, be sure to avoid the following missteps that can kill your reputation. Unprofessional behavior on social media Inappropriate conduct online can cost you a job before it’s even offered. Notaries need to remember that social media channels like Facebook, LinkedIn and online message boards are public and are read by industry professionals looking for signing agents, said Herbert Willis, president of Sunshine Signing Connection, Inc., in Port Richey, Florida. “In my opinion, if you aren’t professional on a public forum, this shows how you will react under pressure during a signing. If you talk like that in a public forum, how are you going to deal with the borrower, or a loan officer?” Willis said. “You’re probably going to be confrontational.” Notaries who are rude or insulting — or get into online “flame wars” with other people — automatically go on Willis’ “do not call” list. Show courtesy to others, follow the rules of conduct and keep your language and behavior professional, he said. Competition for signing assignments is fiercer than ever — and bad online behavior doesn’t do your reputation any good. Giving a signer legal advice or opinions about the loan Willis says this is one of the surest ways to ruin a loan signing. “You don’t know what the signer’s situation is,” he said. “If the Notary looks at the interest rate and says ‘That’s too high’, the signer is going to get upset, call the lender and ask why. But the Notary might not know that this signer has a bad credit rating and couldn’t qualify for a better rate.” Signing agents should never give opinions or advice about the terms of a loan, Willis warned. “I have lost clients because Notaries did this,” he said. “If you do that, you’re automatically off my list.” Failing to follow instructions This can cause major issues and negatively impact the signer, Willis said. For example, changing the date and time of a prearranged signing without notifying the lender or missing a deadline to mail a completed loan package could result in the loan not being funded, he said. Willis urged signing agents to always contact the signing service or lender if an issue with a deadline or appointment time comes up. “Make sure you know and understand each company’s procedures and make sure you follow their instructions,” Shawn Murphy, executive vice president with ValuAmerica, Inc., said during an industry panel discussion at the NNA 2014 Conference last June. Panelists at the event stressed that they look closely at the performance of signing agents. Many evaluate every signing. And the results are tracked by lenders. “We tell our vendors to direct more business to signing agents with the positive results,” said panelist Jim Sloan, Vice President of Vendor Management for JPMorgan Chase. “On the flip side, when we get responses that aren’t positive, we exclude those signing agents from our network.” Unprofessional dress and appearance at the signing Willis says signing agents should dress in a manner that’s appropriate for meeting and conducting business. If he receives post-signing feedback that a signing agent’s appearance was unprofessional, or the Notary exhibited poor grooming or hygiene, he won’t call the Notary again. “You don’t have to wear a suit and tie, but you should show up looking professional,” he said. A Tip For New Signing Agents Willis also cautioned less experienced signing agents to use discretion when asking questions in online public forums. Posting questions publicly about basic signing procedures can give lenders or signing services the impression that a Notary doesn’t have the knowledge needed to carry out an assignment. Willis suggested working with a mentor offline or asking others for advice through more private channels, such as email or telephone if there’s something you need to know. David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.