The former Falkirk and Hibernian manager, 48, quit his post as Livingston boss to answer an SOS from Pools, who had been widely expected to install Phil Brown as Neale Cooper's successor.
"I've always wanted the opportunity to come and work in England," Hughes said. "But I leave Livingston with a heavy heart because there's a lot of good things going on up there, but to get this opportunity, and once I met (chief executive) Russ (Green) in the interview process I've been really excited, but I'm under no illusions that we've got real hard work in front of us.
"I need to get in with the players, inspire them and they have to have a real trust in each other, a belief that they can win football matches, so the quicker we do that and hopefully that can start against Coventry on Saturday and that will give us confidence and we can get momentum to get us out of the position that nobody here wants us to be in."
Pools have won only one of their 17 league games this season and are currently nine points adrift at the foot of the table, but Hughes, a former centre-half who counts Celtic and hometown side Hibernian as his former clubs, is relishing the challenge and added: "I was talking to one of my football friends in Scotland and he said he was looking for Hartlepool in the newspapers but they were that far down they had fallen off the page and it brought a smile to my face. I'm going to use that for my players because if everyone is saying that about us, then hopefully that will galvanise us and will create that siege mentality.
"I keep saying I cannot do this myself. We need the supporters, everybody engaging, taking part and supporting the team. I won't be wielding a big stick and demanding of them, footballers are at their best when they play with a smile on their faces and that can only spread throughout the community."