Image source: Korn/Ferry.

What: Shares of HR specialist Korn/Ferry International (NYSE:KFY) were selling off today on disappointing guidance in its fourth-quarter earnings report. As of 11:12 a.m. EDT, the stock was down 18.4%.

So what: The executive search company beat expectations in the past quarter, posting a profit of $0.58 a share, against estimates of $0.54. Fee revenue in the quarter grew 47% to $400 million, also beating the analyst view at $392.4 million.

Korn/Ferry is in the middle of a transition, having recently acquired the advisory company Hay Group. CEO Gary Burnison explained, "We are in the midst of creating a new firm-with 65% of our colleagues new to the organization in the last three years, due to expansion and growth." Burnison also said the scope and pace of the Hay Group integration has exceeded expectations.

Now what: What seemed to kill the stock was weak first-quarter guidance. Management sees first-quarter revenue in the range of $371 million-$391 million and adjusted earnings per share of $0.50-$0.58. Analysts, meanwhile, had projected results near the end of those ranges, with a consensus of $0.58 EPS and $384.9 million. Following the report, Korn/Ferry also got downgraded by Robert W. Baird to from outperform to neutral as Wall Street is sometimes puzzled to see a strong quarter followed by weak guidance.

A sell-off near 20% seems steep for modestly weak guidance. The stock hit 52-week lows on the news, but with reasonable growth still expected and the stock trading at a price-to-earnings ratio near 10, today's drop could be a buying opportunity.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.