Younger people have said that job hunting these days is different from 30 years ago, but in some respects it's the same. You almost need an "in" or you have to know someone within the industry/company just to be considered. In a tough job market, companies tend to go with what they know, or they look for proven talent. The rest of us are left chipping away at a large wall.
Most companies use software to screen applications and resumes, which means most applications are not even seen by a human. In that environment, you need somehow to connect with humans directly, to make an impression and to sell yourself a little. That's something I have never been comfortable doing, but nevertheless, employers will hire people they like, in whom they have confidence. We need somehow to get on their "list".
The bulk of corporations in the public sector still screen manually. However only those chosen get a response; they do not correspond with other applicants to tell them what happened. From a potential employee perspective, it's a very unsatisfying process. If you are chosen, then you might be sent for additional testing (language testing, personality profile, aptitude testing) before being put on a list to be interviewed. The interview process itself is pass/fail, with successful interviewees being put on an eligibility list. Who gets hired from that list is subject to additional considerations. It's a long process without any guarantee.
What a lot of people do now is to create an online presence and market themselves that way, such as through Twitter or LinkedIn. Through that you might get lucky to forge a connection that will lead you to opportunities. But even that is not enough. Your credentials often have to be stellar in order to be admissible, especially within a competitive field. In the short term, if there's no paid work, one could always volunteer at something in order to get a bit of a work history, or to work for folks who at least appreciate your contributions, even if they are unpaid.
Looking ahead, the younger generation will have to be entrepreneurial; this means always marketing, constantly networking, and constantly looking for the next opportunity, just as if it were a business. My nephews for example are smarter than me at this. All worked summer jobs through school. Their part time jobs helped them to get more substantial ones, now they have jobs waiting for them at graduation. They networked, seized opportunities, and proved themselves. Now they have good resumes and references and may actually be in demand. The trick is to have a rep for something.
Now if only I could benefit from my own advice.