A 31-12 victory over Argentina registered a ninth win in 10 matches and extended the triumphant run at Twickenham to six games, but once again the performance was unsatisfying.
Hartley's man-of-the-match shift was the high point of the afternoon and having displaced rival Tom Youngs to the bench, the Northampton front row believes he has argued a strong case to keep him there.
"I enjoyed the game. It was good to be back and to contribute to a good first-half forward performance was satisfying," he said.
"At the end of the tunnel I knew there was a starting place against the All Blacks available, but I didn't want to get too caught up in that.
"It was more about doing my job in the team and I think I did that. I know why I'm in the team and why I was given the opportunity. I like to think I've made the most of it.
"The coaches talk to me about the energy and leadership I bring, and the form I've had building into the campaign."
Tries from Joe Launchbury, Billy Twelvetrees and Chris Ashton rewarded a purposeful first half that propelled England 24-6 ahead.
A bored Twickenham lapsed into silence in the second half, however, as England lost their way and allowed Argentina back into the match, their misfiring backline once again causing the gravest concern.
"The first half was us bursting out of the blocks because we couldn't ease into the game, if we did that Argentina would have gained a foothold," Hartley said.
"They're the sort of team that won't go away, so 24-6 at half time is perfect.
"Then it wasn't a lack of intensity from us, more that a proud rugby team like Argentina chanced their arm because they're 24-6 down.
"Let's focus on the positives of the second half - we closed the game out and kept knocking them back with our defence."
New Zealand were routed 38-21 at Twickenham last December and Hartley knows only the perfect performance will be enough to subdue the world champions.
"The All Blacks have been fantastic on recent form and come here with a big number one badge on," he said.
"There's no doubt they'll want revenge. They're a proud nation and a proud team and will be looking for payback.
"We'll have to be up for it and play the perfect game - for the whole game."
- Sports & Recreation