Resume. It's a word most people have come to fear, though people simply fear things that they do not understand. I've spent a great deal of time sorting through resume's in both helping fix them up and actually sorting through them for hiring. Here are a few things that are extremely important to remember and will help to stop your resume from getting brushed into a pile.
1. First thing first, proofread your resume.
I cannot tell you how many times I have looked at resumes and had improper grammar and tenses used, and found spelling mistakes. I end up getting distracted by the errors that I forget I'm in the middle of trying to hire someone. Read over it yourself, have a friend read it, and then read over it some more. It may be just a minor comma that was added or a small fragment, but when someone is judging you off of a single sheet of paper, don't let it be because you can't spell.
2. Always write a cover letter
Unless a job specifically says to not include a cover letter, always write one. It gives you the chance to tell a potential employer the things your resume doesn't say. Are you applying to be a pilot because you grew up building model airplanes? Did you live through an earthquake and decide to do seismic studies for college? Is your GPA low because you had a part time job? Did you once rig your bedroom door to open with a remote control? We (as employers) want to know the person behind the resume.
Now, cover letters aren't a one size fits all for jobs. You may be able to make a general one to use as a template, but it really is important to make it fit to the job you are applying for. Go to the job website. Search it on Google or Wikipedia. The more you know about what you'd be doing, the better your cover letter can be created to suit the position. This is part of the reason searching for a job can be considered a full time job on its own - a lot of time gets put into it.
3. Ask for more information
If you are applying for a job to an email or though a school job listing, ask the employer for more information or where you can get more information about the company. This is good for two reasons: 1. It shows that you are interested, and 2. if they respond, you can try to keep a dialog going. Your name will remain in their head, and you will be a more likely candidate. Do not ask about the pay.
4. Use a resume template
I know templates can be overused, but when everything on the page is the same size, same font, no sectioning, no bullets, etc. it becomes a little difficult to follow and understand. Templates were made for a reason: they work!
5. Your email is not your cover letter.
A cover letter says you spent time thinking and writing it all out. An email says you spent 5 minutes looking into the job then applied. Employers want someone that is actually interested in the job they may have!
I'll be sure to make a posting on how to write a decent resume and cover letter, and other useful hints in this regard as well. This should be useful in the meantime!
Good luck job hunting!