"So they rely on referrals. If you know someone at the company, asking them to pass on your CV will hugely increase the chance of getting a phone screen."
This is probably the best piece of advice you can give for starting the job application process. Having an internal person already working in the company recommend you to HR will immediately put you on the top of the queue. At the very least, you'll get an initial phone interview quickly. This is, in fact, the only way that I've able to have successfully get in the door, at both small companies and also larger companies like Google and Microsoft.
The other option is the "career fair", but that tends to only work if you're still a student or near-student status.