Call her a headhunter or call her a recruiter, Mary Bolger’s name is synonymous in Greenwich with matching candidates with executive assistant and personal assistant positions, and 2023 is her fiftieth year in the business.
Opening Mary Bolger Personnel in 1989, she had offices at 125 Greenwich Avenue for many years and became a familiar face. Many people stopped her to say hello or waved to her in her car that was hard to miss with its custom license plate, that said, “Bolger.”
This week, we turned the table, and Bolger shared her own story, including the chain of events that led to her successful employment agency.
Bolger’s family moved from Chicago to Connecticut in 1963, and after attending Sacred Heart Academy in Stamford she went to college in Buffalo, NY, majoring in Sociology.
After college she stayed in Buffalo and was tending bar there when her father, who worked for General Foods at the time, put his foot down.
“He brought me home to Greenwich to find a real job,” she recalled.
As luck would have it, she spotted an ad in Greenwich Time that led to a job at Bailey Employment Services at 80 Greenwich Ave.
“The ad said they would train someone who liked to deal with people,” she recalled.
At the time there were several recruitment agencies that matched candidates to the jobs at Fortune 500 companies in Stamford and Greenwich, and Bolger found immediate success.
“I took to it like a duck to water,” she said.
Over the years many of the people Bolger placed returned to her when they made a job change, with some being placed three, four or five times over the their careers. She has also placed clients’ children, and even grand children. She stayed at the Bailey agency from 1973 to 1989 and when the people she worked for retired, she set out on her own.
“It was literally a matter of putting a sign on the door,” she recalled. “I had an established reputation and my clients all came with me.”
Her secret to success is her honestly, transparency and ability to listen to people.
Bolger described an incident that might have set someone else’s career back significantly. In her early days working for Bailey, a horseback riding accident left her with a broken back. Working through some significant pain, she had her boss set up a bed near her desk.
“I could not sit all day because it was painful. So I just laid down in bed, dialed what was probably a rotary phone at the time, and sat up when I had to interview,” she recalled. “Oh to be 30! That was the last time I jumped a horse!”
Bolger specializes in permanent placement of executive and personal assistants at all levels, as well as office support, including receptionists, bookkeepers and drivers for corporations. These days her business is heavily weighted toward financial services, including hedge funds, private equity, investment banks, family offices, foundations and non profits.
Over the years she has worked with everyone from CEO’s of major corporations such as MasterCard to movie stars and models.
She said in the 1980s Tommy Hilfiger was kind enough to share a testimonial for her brochure, noting he used Bolger for all his professional and hiring needs.
“That went a long way,” she said.
She also interviewed personal assistants for Rod Stewart, James Early Jones, Mary Tyler Moore and Michael Bolton.
“I’ve met all these interesting people over the years,” she exclaimed.
She has also worked with tennis great, Ivan Lendl.
Recently she interviewed a butler who had worked in Buckingham Palace.
“I always ask people what they like to do in their free time and he said, ‘I like polishing silver,'” she recalled.
“I have a good intuition about people. Occasionally people surprise you,” she said, adding that she checks references and does background checks.
“I placed someone in a church recently in Greenwich,” she said.
Bolger, like many people, worked from home during Covid and has stayed there ever since.
While she notes she has developed a good intuition, at this point in her career she attracts great candidates.
“In the 70s and 80s it was different,” she said. “The workforce is much more sophisticated now, and the candidates I attract are the cream of the crop.”
And while Bolger boosts her applicant flow with LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter and Indeed, most of her referrals are by word-of-mouth and reputation.
“Most people say, ‘I’ve wanted to interview with you for so many years. I’m glad we’re getting to meet.'”
Bolger said she likes to ask people about their hobbies and what they do on weekends, which always leads to another story.
“I can relate to people if they’re 22 or 62,” she said. “It’s been a fun time and I still love interviewing people and finding out what makes people tick.”
An added bonus for Bolger is that many of her clients and people she placed have become good friends.
Contact Mary Bolger by email at [email protected] or phone at (203) 869-6466