I'm coming to the end of a tech project I'm looking forward to being done with. Its been a challenging project riddled with conflict and I feel the project manager and I while amicable would not be inclined to give each other positive reviews if asked down the road. Since this project was only nine months long and not a long-term engagement, what would be the best way to represent this not so great 9 month experience when asked by a hiring manager down the road?
Turn it into a positive - "it was a tough project, mainly because of X, Y and Z. To mitigate these issues, I proposed doing A and B and adapting C to assist us".
None of the letters above should be people, they should be systemic issues like "change of tech", "opaque requirements" etc. You should then be able to discuss why they were challenges, and more importantly how you managed to overcome them.
This all gives you a chance to portray yourself as resourceful, adaptable and tenacious - all qualities employers are looking for.
Contracts ending are normal in software development. I see many resumes each week with a bunch of three to twelve month employment stints; perfectly normal if the person was a contractor. So, I don't think you should worry about the "only nine months long and not a long-term engagement" part.
If asked about the contract, focus on the technology. If they ask about the project in non-technical terms, tell them there were some challenges, what the challenges were (without being too critical), how you/the team overcame them, what you learned, and explain how it made you better at your job.
Do not speak ill of the employer or the other employees. It just makes you look bad.
I had a similar problem with a former job experience... I did not want to talk about it with my recruiter but it got to the point I had to.
What I would recommend is not to talk about it, although if your interviewer asks questions about it stay positive when you describe your tasks and jobs with your recruiter.
Everything is not black and white. You have to point out the good things you have learned from this bad experience. It tought you about project management much deeper and how to avoid failure in the future, as I think you don't want to live the same experience.
Stay positive and rememeber that "What doesn't kill you make you stronger".
"It was a tough project with many challenges such as [a,b,c], and while at times I felt that things could have been done differently, over all, I learned much such as [x,y,z]