How to Hire Cupid

With Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, the mayor of Panama City, Florida is still plagued by bad press. Ever since the publication of the Huffington Post article that singled out Panama City, Florida as the #1 city in America where marriages go to die, the Mayor is still losing sleep. He decided he wanted to hire on Cupid for a full-time gig. With little idea of how to go about luring Cupid away from his current gig with the best offer possible, the mayor turned to PayScale for advice.

Determine your pay strategy

Well, Mr. Mayor, first you’ll need to think about your pay strategy. Who do you think you’ll be competing with for Cupid’s talent? As with many first time comp strategy people, he first thought of similar organizations to his—the City of Panama’s City Government. While a good place to start, we asked if there were other competitors he could see for Cupid’s talent. As we got to chatting, he admitted that he was actually less worried about other cities stealing Cupid out from under him. He was more concerned that the other main employer in Panama City might catch wind of Cupid’s interest in relocating and snatch him up from the government. Good thinking, Mr. Mayor. Turns out the other main employer in Panama City is the military, so we added that labor market for comparison.

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Price the job (not the person)

Our next challenge with the Mayor was to focus on what he was looking for in Cupid I mean, it’s a challenge to focus on the job not the person when you’re looking to hire Cupid. He’s basically a purple squirrel. What’s that? It’s the super ideal candidate that’s so rare and so hard to find, that it’s practically mythological. Cupid is so mythic he may as well be a purple squirrelicorn (yes, squirrel plus unicorn). So we asked the mayor, “What is it that you actually need from this position?” “Well,” he thought aloud, “I need someone who will help manage people’s relationships so that they last!”


Mr. Mayor struggled with this match. The job wouldn’t deliver any products. “But what about the product of love?” we reminded him. “Who are the clients?”

He scratched his chin thoughtfully: “Why the happy couples of course. But we’re not looking to make revenue here.”

“You’re not? Aren’t you seeking to improve the reputation of your city so that people are drawn to move there, ultimately improving tourism and other industries in your city?” We did a lot of back and forth, and after reviewing a few alternatives, Mr. Mayor eventually agreed that this match was mostly right.

We moved on to compensable factors. This is where it got really challenging for Mr. Mayor to separate the individual from the job. “Mr. Mayor,” we prompted, “your goal is to determine what that job is worth to your city and your government. How much are you willing to pay? Once you know what the job is truly worth, you can decide what to offer Cupid based on the market value of the job.”


  • Years of Experience: 30

Mayor: “But Cupid has been around for thousands of years.”

PayScale: “Do you want to pay for thousands of years of experience?”

Mayor:  “No.”

PayScale:  “What do you think is necessary for success?”

Mayor: “Well, probably 30 by the time they’re fully proficient.”

  • Degree: Any.

Mayor: “But Cupid was educated in the School of Love.”

PayScale: “True – although that’s not an accredited school and we’re talking about the person again. Do you believe a degree is required to do the job successfully?”

Mayor: “Not necessarily.”

  • Work shift

Mayor: “Night, definitely night.”

  • How about skills?

PayScale: “Hmm, Customer Relationship Management.”

Mayor: “I think Cupid would use an updated system to pair couples.”

PayScale: “Fair enough – is that needed in the job?”

Mayor: “Yes. How about come kind of Communication for all those love letters?”

PayScale: “Oral / Verbal Communication?”

Mayor: “Perfect.”

PayScale: “What about Risk Management? The job is responsible for identifying safe and effective partners, right? Avoiding the risk of further divorce?”

Mayor: “Yes! Oh, and PR. This job definitely has to spread the feelings of love and get the City’s reputation back in good standing.”


Use the market as a guideline

Figuring we’d done what we could do to price the job, we then ran the market report to figure out what to pay Cupid.

“How do I know what percentile to use,” Mr. Mayor wondered.  So we broke it down for him a bit more.  The 50th percentile reflects the baseline of what your competitors are doing – you’d pay there if you wanted to meet the market or be on par with the market. The 75th percentile is exceeding the market.  “Exceeding by how much?” he mused out loud. We suggested, think of it like this:


  • 50th is being on par with the market or with competition
  • 65th is slightly competitive
  • 75th is competitive
  • 90th is aggressive—and for some jobs relative to some markets, you really might need to go that far. If you were a tech company trying to compete in Silicon Valley, you’d probably need to be aggressive with some of your jobs to compete.

Equipped with the information about what it all means, we decided a good target for proficiency would be around $100k. That would cover both markets at a fairly competitive level. Perhaps the most difficult part of our conversation with Mr. Mayor was where his starting offer should be for Cupid, based on his newfound knowledge of the market value for the job. Mr. Mayor wanted to go straight for the $100k. Our two concerns were:

  1. Will Cupid come in proficient in the role? Or will he need to learn the ins and outs of the job or market? As a single incumbent, we didn’t have to worry about upsetting any current employees in the job.
  2. If they hire Cupid with a high starting wage, will they run into problems in future years by limiting their ability to offer increases that feel rewarding for Cupid? Ultimately, given both the critical value of this role to the City right now, and the demonstrated experience (as well as fan base) Cupid brings, Mr. Mayor decided he was happy offering $100k.

Communicate and negotiate well

Our final parting words for Mr. Mayor were to communicate and negotiate well. We urged him to:

  • Be transparent with Cupid about why he was offering the $100k. Mr. Mayor definitely did his homework and given that he really did make some competitive choices, we thought it would really serve his purpose to explain how he chose that starting wage.
  • Listen to what Cupid’s needs and motivations are. It turns out that Cupid is happy to work *hard* from January 1st to February 15th, but he likes to have a lot of time off throughout the rest of the year. Which brought us to our third recommendation.
  • Get creative, Mr. Mayor. Compensation isn’t just about base pay, and it’s not only about pay at all. Think about what Cupid will get to put on his resume after he turns around the reputation of Panama City, Florida!

With that, we ended our conversation with Mr. Mayor… until next time when Cupid comes into his office, exhausted and underappreciated for all his work leading up to Valentine’s Day. But that’s a story for another time.

*Any resemblance to Greg Brudnicki, mayor of Panama City, Florida is purely coincidental.


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